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AN APOLOGY FOR THE LIFE OF 
MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 



VOLUME THE FIRST. 



NOTE. 

510 copies printed on this fine deckle-edge demy Svo paper for England and 
America, with the portraits as India proofs after letters. 

Each copy is numbered, and the type distributed. 
No.-^ 




CO LLEY GIBBER 



AN APOLOGY FOR THE LIFE OF 

MR. COLLEY GIBBER 

WRITTEN B Y HIMSELF 

A NEW EDITION WITH NOTES AND SUPPLEMENT 

BY 

ROBERT W. LOWE 

WITH TWENTY-SIX ORIGINAI MEZZOTINT PORTRAITS BY 

R. B. PARKES, AND EIGHTEEN ETCHINGS 

BY ADOLPHE LALAUZE 



IN TWO VOLUMES 

VOLUME THE FIRST 



LONDON 

JOIIX C. NIMMC) 
14, King William Street, Strand 

MDCCCLXXXIX 



C{)(stD(cfe 13rcss 

PRINTED BY CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON, E.C. 



fR 

33M 



PREFACE. 

COLLEY GIBBER'S famous Autobiography 
has always been recognized as one of the 
most dehghtful books of its class ; but, to students 
of theatrical history, the charm of its author's in- 
p;enuous frankness has been unable altogrether to 
overweigh the inaccuracy and vagueness of his treat- 
ment of matters of fact. To remove this cause of 
complaint is the principal object of the present 
edition. But correcting errors is only one of an 
editor's duties, and by no means the most difficult. 
More exacting, and almost equally important, are 
the illustration of the circumstances surrounding the 
author, the elucidation of his references to current 
events, and the comparison of his statements and 
theories with those of judicious contemporaries. In 
all these particulars I have interpreted my duty in 
the widest sense, and have aimed at giving, as far 
as in me lies, an exhaustive commentary on the 
" Apology." 

I am fortunate in being able to claim that my 
work contains much information which has never 
before been made public. A careful investigation 



VI PREFACE. 

of the MSS. in the British Museum, and of the 
Records of the Lord Chamberlain's Office (to which 
my access was greatly facilitated by the kindness of 
Mr. Edward F. S. Pigott, the Licenser of Plays), 
has enabled me to give the exact dates of many 
transactions which were previously uncertain, and to 
give references to documents of great importance 
in stage history, whose very existence was before 
unknown. How important my new matter is, may 
be estimated by comparing the facts given in my 
notes regarding the intricate transactions of the years 
1707 to 1 72 1, with any previous history of the same 
period. Among other sources of information, I 
may mention the Cibber Collections in the Forster 
Library at South Kensington, to which my attention 
was drawn by the kindness of the courteous keeper, 
Mr. R. F. Sketchley; and I have also, of course, 
devoted much time to contemporary newspapers. 

In order to illustrate the " Apology," two tracts of 
the utmost rarity, the " Historia Histrionica" and 
Anthony Aston's " Brief Supplement" to Clbber's 
Lives of the Actors, are reprinted in this edition. 
The " Historia Histrionica" was written, all autho- 
rities agree, by James Wright, Barrister-at-Law, 
whose " History and Antiquities of the County of 
Rutland" is quoted by Cibber in his first chapter 
(vol. i. p. 8). The historical value of this pamphlet 
is very great, because it contains the only formal 
account in existence of the ^feneration of actors who 
preceded Bettcrton, and because it gives many curious 



PREFACE. Vll 

and interesting particulars regarding the theatres and 
plays, as well as the actors, before and during the 
Civil Wars. As Cibber begins his account of the 
stage (see chap, iv.) at the Restoration, there is a 
peculiar propriety in prefacing it by Wright's work ; 
a fact which has already been recognized, for the 
publisher of the third edition (i 750) of the " Apology" 
appended to it " A Dialogue on Old Plays and Old 
Players," which is simply a reprint of the " Historia 
Histrionica" under another title, and without the 
curious preface. 

Following the " Historia Histrionica" will be found 
a copy of the Patent granted to Sir William Davenant, 
one of the most important documents in English 
stage history. A similar grant was made to Thomas 
Killigrew, as is noted on page 87 of this volume. 

These documents form a natural introduction to 
Gibber's History of the Stage and of his own career, 
which commences, as has been said, at the Restoration, 
and ends, somewhat abruptly, with his retirement 
from the regular exercise of his profession in 1733. 
To complete the record of Gibber's life, I have added 
a Supplementary Ghapter to the " Apology," in 
which I have also noted briefly the chief incidents of 
theatrical history up to the time of his death. In 
this, too, I have told with some degree of minute- 
ness the story of his famous quarrel with Pope ; and 
to this chapter I have appended a list of Gibber's 
dramatic productions, and a Bibliography of works 
by, or relating to him. 



Vlll PREFACE. 

Anthony Aston's " Brief Supplement to Colley 
Cibber, Esq; his Lives of the late famous Actors 
and Actresses," of which a reprint is given with this 
edition, is almost, if not quite, the rarest of theatrical 
books. Isaac Reed, says Genest, "wrote his name 
in his copy of Aston's little book, with the date of 
1 769 — he says — ' this Pamphlet contains several cir- 
cumstances concerning the Performers of the last 
century, which are no where else to be found — it 
seems never to have been published ' — he adds — 
'Easter Monday, 1795 — though I have now pos- 
sessed this pamphlet 26 years, it is remarkable that 
I never have seen another copy of it.' " Of Aston 
himself, little is known. According to his own 
account he came on the stage about 1 700, and we 
know that he was a noted stroller ; but as to when 
he was born, or when he died, there is no informa- 
tion. He is supposed, and probably with justice, to 
be the " trusty Anthony, who has so often adorned 
both the theatres in England and Ireland," mentioned 
in Estcourt's advertisement of his opening of the 
Bumper Tavern, in the "Spectator" of 28th and 29th 
December, 1 7 1 1 ; and he was no doubt a well-known 
character among actors and theatre-goers. He would 
thus be well qualified for his undertaking as bio- 
grapher of the actors of his time ; and, indeed, his 
work bears every mark of being the production of 
a writer thoroughly well acquainted with his sub- 
ject. This valuable pamphlet has been, until now 
practically a sealed book to theatrical students. 



/ 



PREFACE. IX 

The three works which make up this edition — 
Gibber's ^' Apology," Wright's " Historia Histrionica," 
and Aston's "Brief Supplement" — are reprinted 
verbatim et literatim ; the only alterations made being 
the correction of obvious errors. Amonsf obvious 
errorc \ include the avalanche of commas with which 
Gibber's printers overwhelmed his text. A more 
grotesque misuse of punctuation I do not know, and 
I have struck out a large number of these points, 
not only because they were unmeaning, but also 
because, to a modern reader, they were irritating in 
the highest degree. The rest of the punctuation I 
have not interfered with, and with the single excep- 
tion of these commas the present edition reproduces 
not only the matter of the works reprinted, but the 
very manner in which they originally appeared, the 
use of italics and capitals having especially been care- 
fully observed. 

The " Apology " of Gibber has gone through six 
editions. I have reprinted the text of the second, 
because it was certainly revised by the author, and 
many corrections made. But I have carefully com- 
pared my text with that of the first edition, and, 
wherever the correction is more than merely verbal, 
I have indicated the fact in a note {e.g. vol. i. p. 72). 
The only edition which has been annotated is that 
published in 1822, under the editorship of Edmund 
Bellchambers. Whether the Notes were written by 
the Editor or by Jacob Henry Burn, who annotated 
Dickens's " Grimaldi," is a point which I have raised 



X PREFACE. 

in my " Bibliographical Account of English Thea- 
trical Literature" (p. 373). I have been unable to 
obtain any authentic information on the subject, so 
give Burn's claim for what it is worth. The state- 
ment as to the latter's authorship was made in his 
own handwriting on the back of the title-page of 
a copy of the book, sold by a well-known book- 
seller some years ago. It was in the following 
terms : — 

"In 1821, while residing at No. 28, Maiden Lane, Covent 
Garden, the elder Oxberry, who frequently called in as he passed, 
found me one day adding notes in MS. to Gibber's ' Apology.' 
Taking it up, he said he should like to reprint it ; he wanted 
something to employ the spare time of his hands, and proferred 
to buy my copy, thus annotated, I think it was two pounds I 
said he should have it for ; this sum he instantly paid, and the 
notes throughout are mine, not Bellchambers's, who having seen 
it through the press or corrected the proofs whilst printing, added 
his name as the editor. — J. H. Burn." 

Whether Burn or Bellchambers be the author, the 
notes, I find, are by no means faultlessly accurate. 
I have made little use of them, except that the Bio- 
graphies, which are by far the most valuable of the 
annotations, are reprinted at the end of my second 
volume. Even in these, it will be seen, I have 
corrected many blunders. Some of the memoirs I 
have condensed slightly ; and, as the Biographies of 
Booth, Dogget, and Wilks were in all essential 
points merely a repetition of Gibber's narrative, I 
have not reprinted them. In all cases where I have 
made any use of Bellchambers's edition, or have had 



PREFACE. XI 

a reference suggested to me by it, I have carefully 
acknowledged my indebtedness. 

Among the works of contemporary writers which 
I have quoted, either in illustration, in criticism, or 
in contradiction of Gibber, it will be noticed that I 
make large drafts upon the anonymous pamphlet 
entitled " The Laureat : or, the right side of Colley 
Gibber, Esq;" (1740). I have done this because it 
furnishes the keenest criticism upon Gibber's state- 
ments, and gives, in an undeniably clever style, 
the views of Gibber's enemies upon himself and 
his works. I am unable even to guess who was 
the author of this work, but he must have been a 
man well acquainted with theatrical matters. 

Another pamphlet from which I quote, " The 
Egotist: or, Golley upon Gibber" (1743), is interest- 
ing as being, I think without doubt, the work of 
Gibber himself, although not acknowledged by him. 

Many of the works which I quote in my notes have 
gone through only one edition, and my quotations 
from these are easily traced ; but, for the convenience 
of those who may wish to follow up any of my re- 
ferences to books which have been more than once 
issued, I may mention that in the case of Davies's 
"Dramatic Miscellanies" I have referred throughout 
to the edition of 1785; that Dr. Birkbeck Hill's 
magnificent edition of Boswell's " Life of Johnson" 
is that which I have quoted ; and that the references 
to Nichols's reprint of Steele's " Theatre," the 
" Anti-Theatre," &c,, are to the scarce and valuable 



Xll PREFACE. 

edition in 2 vols. i2mo, 1791. My quotations from 
the " Tatler " have been made from a set of the 
original folio numbers, which I am fortunate enough 
to possess ; and I have made my extracts from the 
" Roscius Anglicanus " from Mr. Joseph Knight's 
beautiful facsimile edition. The index, which will 
be found at the end of the second volume, has been 
the object of my special attention, and I have spared 
no pains to make it clear and exhaustive. 

Robert W. Lowe. 
London, September, 1888. 



PUBLISHER'S PREFACE. 

THE twenty-six portraits and eighteen chapter 
headings in this new edition of Colley Gibber's 
"Apology" are all newly engraved. The portraits 
are copperplate mezzotints, engraved by R. B. 
Parkes from the best and most authentic originals, 
in the selection of which great care has been taken. 
Where more than one portrait exists, the least hack- 
neyed likeness has been chosen, and pains have 
been taken to secure those pictures which are likely 
to be esteemed as rarities. The chapter headings 
are etched by Adolphe Lalauze, and the subjects 
represent scenes from plays illustrating the costumes, 
manner, and appearance of the actors of Gibber's 
period, from contemporary authorities. 

London, October^ 1888. 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 
HiSTORIA HiSTRIONICA : AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE 

English Stage xix 

Letters Patent for Erecting a New Theatre . . . liii 
Title and Dedication to the Life of Mr. Colley 

Gibber Ixiii 

CHAPTER I. 

The Introduction. The Author's Birth, etc. ... i 

CHAPTER n. 

He that writes of himself not easily tir'd, etc. . 28 

CHAPTER III. 
The Author's several Chances for the Church, the 
Court, and the Army, etc 55 

CHAPTER IV. 
A short View of the Stage, from the Year 1660 to 
the Revolution, etc 86 

CHAPTER V. 

The Theatrical Characters of the Principal Actors 
in the Year 1690, continu'd, etc 119 



XVI CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER VI. 
The Author's first Step upon the Stage. His Dis- 
couragements, ETC 1 80 

CHAPTER Vn. 

The State of the Stage continued, etc 227 

CHAPTER VHI. 
The Patentee of Drury-Lane wiser than his Actors, 
ETC 262 

CHAPTER IX. 
A small Apology for writing on, etc 299 



LIST OF MEZZOTINT PORTRAITS. 

NEWLY ENGRAVED BY R. B. PARKES. 

VOLUME THE FIRST. 



PAGE 



I. CoLLEY Gibber. After the painting by John Baptist 

Vanloo, 1740 Frontispiece 

11. Caius Gabriel Gibber, the sculptor, father of 
Golley Gibber. After the picture by Laroon and 
Ghristian Richter. (Gollection of the Earl of 
Orford, Strawberry Hill) 18 

III. Thomas Betterton. After the painting by Sir 

Godfrey Kneller 88 

IV. Benjamin Johnson, in the character of Ananias, 

in Ben Jonson's "Alchemist," act iii. After the 

picture by Peter Van Bleeck, 1738 104 

V. Edward Kynaston, comedian. After R. Cooper . 122 

VI. Anthony Leigh, in the character of the Friar, in 

Dryden's tragi-comedy of "The Spanish Friar." 

After the painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller . . . 146 

VII. Elizabeth Barry. After the painting by Sir 

Godfrey Kneller, 1689. (Collection of the Earl 

of Orford, Strawberry Hill) 160 

VIII. Mrs. Bracegirdle as "The Indian Queen," in the 
play by Sir R. Howard and J. Dryden. After the 

picture by J. Smith and W. Vincent 1S8 

IX. William Bullock. After the picture by Thomas 

Johnson. Ad vivum pinxit et fecit 204 

X. William Penkethman. After the painting by 

R. Schmutz 238 

XI. William Congreve. After the painting by Sir 

Godfrey Kneller, 1709, "Kit-Gat Club" ... 272 
XII. Charlotte Charke. After a study by Henry 

Gravelot 288 

XIII. Sir John Vanbrugh. After the painting by Sir 

Godfrey Kneller, " Kit-Cat Club " 306 

b 



LIST OF CHAPTER HEADINGS. 

NEWLY ETCHED FROM CONTEMPORARY DRAWINGS BY 
ADOLPHE LALAUZE. 

Volume the First. 

L Caius Gabriel Gibber's Figures of Raving and 

Melancholy Madness. From Bedlam Hospital.^ 
II. Scene illustrating Growne's "Sir Gourtly Nice." 
After the contemporary design by Arnold Vanhaecken. 

III. Scene illustrating Etheredge's "Man of Mode; 

or, Sir Fopling Flutter." After the design by Lud. 
du Guernier. 

IV. Scene illustrating Gongreve's " Double Dealer." 

After F. Hay man. 
V. Griffin and Johnson in the Gharacters of Tribula- 
tion and Ananias, Ben Jonson's "Alchemist," act iii. 
scene 2. Tribulation. " I do command thee (Spirit of 
Zeal, but Trouble) to peace, \vithin him." After the 
original by Peter Van Bleeck, 1738. 
VI. Scene illustrating Otway's "Orphan." After the 

contemporary etching by G. Vander Gucht. 
VII. Mrs. Porter, Mills, and Gibber. After a contemporary 

engraving by J. Basire. 
VIII. Scene illustrating Steele's "Funeral, or Grief a la 
Mode." After the contemporary design by G. Vander 
Gucht. 
IX. Mr. Estcourt as "Kite" in Farquhar's "Recruiting 
Officer." After the contemporary design by E. Knight 
and G. Vander Gucht. 

' Colley Gibber's "brazen brainless brothers." According to Horace 
Walpole, "one of the Statues was the portrait of Oliver Cromwell's porter, 
then in Bedlam." 



HISTORIA HISTRIONICA: 



AN 

Hiftorical Account 

OF THE 



Cnjltfl) ©tage , 



SHEWING 

The ancient Ufe, Improvement, 

and Perfedlion, of Dramatick Repre- 
fentations, in this Nation. 

I N A 
Dialogue, oi PLATS ^ixid PLATERS, 



— Olim meminijfe juvabit. 



LONDON. 

Printed by G. Croom, for William Haws at the 
Rofe in Liidgate-Jireet. 1699. 



THE PREFACE. 

Much has been Writ of late pro and con, aboiit the 
Stage, yet the Subject admits of more, and that ivhich 
has not been hetherto toucht upon ; not only what that 
is, but zuhat it was, about which some People have 
made such a Busle. What it is we see, and I think 
it has been sufficiently display d in Mr. Collier'i" Book; 
What it was in former Ages, and hozv used in this 
Kingdom, so far back as one may collect any Memo- 
rialls, is the Subject of the following Dialogue. Old 
Plays will be always read by the Curious, if it were 
only to discover the Manners and Behaviour of several 
Ages ; and how they alter d. For Plays are exactly 
like Portraits Drawfi in the Garb and Fashio7i of the 
time when Painted. You. see one Habit in the time of 
King Charles I. another quite different fro7n that, both 
for Men and Women, in Qtieen Elizabeths time; 
another under Henry the Eighth different from both; 
and so backward all various. And in the several 
Fashions of Behaviour and Conversation, there is as 
much Mutability as in that of cloaths. Religion and 
Religious matters zvas once as much the Mode in 
publick Entertai7ime7its, as the Coiitrary has been in 



XXll THE PREFACE. 



some times since. This appears in the different Plays 
of several Ages: And to evince this, the following 
Sheets are an Essay or Specimen. 

Some may think the Subject of this Discourse 
trivial, and the persons herein mention d not worth 
remembering. But besides that I could name some 
things contested of late with great heat, of as little, or 
less Conseqtience, the Reader may know that the Pro- 
fession of Players is not so totally scandalotis, nor all 
of them so reprobate, but that there has been found 
tmder that Name, a Canonized Saint in the primi- 
tive Church ; as may be seeji in the Roman 
Martyrology on the 29th of March ; his name 
Masculas a Master of Interludes, (the Latin is 
Archimimus, and the French tra7islation un Maitre 
Comedien) who under the Persecution of the Vandals 
in Africa, by Geisericus the Arian King, having 
endured many and greivious Torments and Reproaches 
for the Confession of the Truth, finisht the Couj^se of 
this glorioles Combat. Saith the said Martyrology. 

// appears from this, and some further Instances in 
the following Discourse, That there have been Players 
of worthy Principles as to Religion, Loyalty, and other 
Virtues ; and if the major part of them fall under a 
different Character, it is the general unhappincss of 
Mankind, that the Most are the Worst. 



A 

DIALOGUE 

OF 

PLAYS and PLAYERS. 

LovEwiT, Truman. 

LovEW. Honest Old Cavalier! well met, 'faith 
I'm glad to see thee. 

Trum. Have a care what you call me. Old, is a 
Word of Disgrace among the Ladies ; to be Honest is 
to be Poor, and Foolish, (as some think) and Cavalier 
is a Word as much out of Fashion as any of 'em. 

Lovew. The more's the pity: But what said the 
Fortune-Teller in Ben.Johnsoiis Mask of Gypsies, to 
the then Lord Privy Seal, 

Honest and Old ! 
In those the Good Part of a Foiiune is told. 

Trum. Ben. Johnson ? How dare you name 
Ben. Johnson in these times ? When we have such a 
crowd of Poets of a quite different Genius ; the least 
of which thinks himself as well able to correct Ben. 
Johnson, as he could a Country School Mistress that 
taught to Spell. 

Lovew. We have indeed. Poets of a different 
Genius ; so are the Plays : but in my Opinion, they 



XXIV AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

are all of 'em (some few excepted) as much inferior 
to those of former Times, as the Actors now in being 
(generally speaking) are, compared to Hart, Mohun, 
Btirt, Lacy, Chui, and Shattei^el ; for I can reach no 
farther backward. 

Trum. I can ; and dare assure you, if my Fancy 
and Memory are not partial (for Men of my Age 
are apt to be over indulgent to the Thoughts of their 
youthful Days) I say the Actors that I have seen 
before the Wars, Lowin, Tayler, Pollard, and some 
others, were almost as far beyond Hart and his 
Company, as those were beyond these now in being. 

LovEW. I am willing to believe it, but cannot 
readily ; because I have been told. That those whom 
I mention'd, were Bred up under the others of your 
Acquaintance, and follow'd their manner of Action, 
which is now lost. So far, that when the Question 
has been askt. Why these Players do not revive 
the Silent Woman, and some other of Joknson^s 
Plays, (once of highest esteem) they have answer'd, 
truly. Because there are none now Living who can 
rightly Humour those Parts ; for all who related 
to the Black-friers, (where they were Acted in per- 
fection) are now Dead, and almost forgotten. 

Trum. 'Tis very true, Hart and Cltcn, were 
bred up Boys at the Black-friers, and acted Womens 
Parts, Hart was Robinson's Boy or Apprentice : He 
acted the Dutchess in the Tragedy of the Cardinal, 
which was the first Part that gave him Reputation. 
Cartwright, and Winters/ml belong'd to the private 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXV 

House in Salisbury-court, Burt was a Boy first 
under Shank at the Black-friers, then under Beeston 
at the Cockpit ; and Mohun, and Shatterel were in 
the same Condition with him, at the last Place. There 
Burt used to Play the principal Women's Parts, in 
particular Clariana in Loves Cruelty ; and at the 
same time Mohun acted Bellamcntc, which Part he 
retain'd after the Restauration. 

LovEW. That I have seen, and can well remem- 
ber. I wish they had Printed in the last Age (so I 
call the times before the Rebellion) the Actors Names 
over against the Parts they Acted, as they have done 
since the Restauration. And thus one might have 
guest at the Action of the Men, by the Parts which 
we now Read in the Old Plays. 

Trum. It was not the Custome and Usage of 
those Days, as it hath been since. Yet some few Old 
Plays there are that have the Names set against the 
Parts, as. The Dutchess of Malfy ; the Picture ; the 
Roman Actor ; the deserving Favourite ; the Wild 
Goose Chace, (at the Black- friers) the Wedding; the 
Renegado; the fair Maid of the West] Hannibal and 
Scipio ; Ki7ig John and Matilda ; (at the Cockpit) 
and Holland's Leaguer, (at Salisbury Court). 

LovEW. These are but few indeed : But pray 
Sir, what Master-Parts can you remember the Old 
Black-friers Men to Act, m Johnson, Shakespear, and 
Fletchers Plays. 

Trum. What I can at present recollect I'll tell 
you ; Shakespear, (who as I have heard, was a much 



XXVI AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

better Poet, than Player) Burbadge, Hemmings, 
and others of the Older sort, were Dead before I 
knew the Town ; but in my time, before the Wars, 
Lowin used to Act, with mighty Applause, Falstaffe, 
Moi'ose, Volpone, and Mammon in the Alchymist ; 
Melancius, in the Maid's Tragedy, and at the same 
time Amyntor was Play'd by Stephen Hammerton, 
(who was at first a most noted and beautiful Woman 
Actor, but afterwards he acted with equal Grace and 
Applause, a Young Lover's Part) ; Tayler Acted 
Hamlet incomparably well, Jcigo, Truewit in the 
Silent Woman, and Face in the Alchymist ; Swan- 
ston used to Play Othello ; Pollard, and Robinson 
were Comedians, so was Shank who us'd to Act Sir 
Roger, in the Scornful Lady. These were of the 
Black-friers. Those of principal Note at the Cock- 
pit, were, Perkins, Michael Bowyer, Snmner, Wil- 
liam Allen, and Bird, eminent Actors, and Robins 
3. Comedian. Of the other Companies I took little 
notice. 

LovEW. Were there so many Companies ? 

Trum. Before the Wars, there were in beinp- all 
these Play-houses at the same time. The Black- 
friers, and Globe on the Bankside, a. Winter and 
Summer House, belonging to the same Company, 
called the King's Servants; the Cockpit or Phcenix, 
in Drury-lane, called the Queen's Servants ; the 
private House in Salisbury -court, called the Prince's 
Servants ; the Fortune near White-cross-street, and 
the Red Bull at the upper end of St. John s-street : 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXVU 

The two last were mostly frequented by Citizens, and 
the meaner sort of People. All these Companies got 
Money, and Liv'd in Reputation, especially those of 
the Black-friers, who were Men of grave and sober 
Behaviour. 

LovEW. Which I admire at ; That the Town 
much less than at present, could then maintain Five 
Companies, and yet now Two can hardly subsist, 

Trum. Do not wonder, but consider. That tho' 
the Town was then, perhaps, not much more than 
half so Populous as now, yet then the Prices were 
small (there being no Scenes) and better order kept 
among the Company that came ; which made very 
good People think a Play an Innocent Diversion 
for an idle Hour or two, the Plays themselves being 
then, for the most part, more Instructive and Moral. 
Whereas of late, the Play-houses are so extreamly 
pestered with Vizard-masks and their Trade, (occa- 
sioning continual Quarrels and Abuses) that many of 
the more Civilized Part of the Town are uneasy in 
the Company, and shun the Theater as they would a 
riouse of Scandal. It is an Argument of the worth of 
the Plays and Actors, of the last Age, and easily in- 
ferr'd, that they were much beyond ours in this, to 
consider that they cou'd support themselves meerly 
from their own Merit ; the weight of the Matter, and 
goodness of the Action, without Scenes and Machines : 
Whereas the present Plays with all that shew, can 
hardly draw an Audience, unless there be the addi- 
tional Invitation of a Signior Fidcli, a Monsieur 



XXVlll AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

L\idde, or some such Foreign Regale exprest in the 
bottom of the Bill 

LovEW. To wave this Digression, I have Read 
of one Edzvai'-ci Allin, a Man so famed for excellent 
Action, that among Ben. Johnsons epigrams, I find 
one directed to him, full of Encomium, and con- 
cluding thus 

Wear this Renow7i, ^t is Just that who did give 
So many Poets Life, by one should Live. 

Was he one of the Black-friers'^ 

Trum. Never, as I have heard; (for he was Dead 
before my time). He was Master of a Company 
of his own, for whom he Built the Fortune Play- 
house from the Ground, a large, round Brick Build- 
ing. This is he that grew so Rich that he purchased 
a great estate in Surrey and elsewhere ; and having 
no Issue, He built and largely endow'd Dnlwich 
College, in the Year 1619, for a Master, a Warden, 
Four Fellows, Twelve aged poor People, and Twelve 
poor Boys, &c. A noble Charity. 

LovEW. What kind of Pla}^ houses had they 
before the Wars ? 

Trum. The Black-friers, Cockpit, and Salisbury- 
court, were called Private Houses, and were very 
small to what we see now. The Cockpit was stand- 
ing since the Restauration, and Rhodes Company 
Acted there for some time. 

LovEW. I have seen that. 

Trum. Then you have seen the other two, in 
effect ; for they were all three Built almost exactly 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXIX 

alike, for Form and Bigness. Here they had Pits for 
the Gentry, and Acted by Candle-Hght. The Globe, 
Fortune and Bull, were large Houses, and lay partly 
open to the Weather, and there they alwaies Acted 
by Daylight. 

LovEW. But, prithee, Truman, what became of 
these Players when the Stage was put down, and 
the Rebellion rais'd ? 

Trum. Most of 'em, except Lozvin, Tayler and 
Pollard (who were superannuated) went into the 
King's Army, and like good Men and true, Serv'd their 
Old Master, tho' in a different, yet more honourable, 
Capacity. Robinson was Kill'd at the Taking of a 
Place, (I think Basing Hotise) by Harrison, he that 
was after Hang'd at Charing-cross, who refused him 
Quarter, and Shot him in the Head when he had 
laid down his Arms ; abusing Scripture at the same 
time, in saying. Cursed is he that doth the Work of 
the Lord 7iegligently . Mohiin was a Captain, (and 
after the Wars were ended here, served in Flanders, 
where he received Pay as a Major) Hart was a 
Lieutenant of Horse under Sir Thomas Dallison, in 
Prince Rupert's Regiment, Burt was Cornet in the 
same Troop, and Shatterel Quarter-master. Allen of 
the Cockpit, \i2js> a Major, and Quarter Master General 
at Oxford. I have not heard of one of these Players 
of any Note that sided with the other Party, but only 
Swansto7i, and he profest himself a Presbyterian, 
took up the Trade of a Jeweller, and liv'd in Aldcr- 
manbury, within the Territory of Father Calamy. The 



XXX AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

rest either Lost, or expos'd their Lives for their King. 
When the Wars were over, and the Royalists totally 
Subdued, most of 'em who were left alive gather'd to 
London, and for a Subsistence endeavour'd to revive 
their Old Trade, privately. They made up one Com- 
pany out of all the Scatter'd Members of Several ; 
and in the Winter before the King's Murder, 1648, 
they ventured to Act some Plays with as much 
caution and privacy as cou'd be, at the Cockpit. They 
continu'd undisturbed for three or four Days ; but at 
last as they were presenting the Tragedy of the 
Bloiidy Brothel' (in which Lowin Acted Aubrey, 
Tayler Rollo, Pollard the Cook, Burt Latorch, and 
I think Hart Otto) a Party of Foot Souldiers beset 
the House, surpriz'd 'em about the midle of the Play, 
and carried 'em away in their habits, not admitting 
them to shift, to Hatton-house, then a Prison, where 
having detain'd them some time, they Plunder'd 
them of their Cloths and let 'em loose again. After- 
wards in Olivers time, they used to Act privately, 
three or four Miles, or more, out of Town, now 
here, now there, sometimes in Noblemens Houses, 
in particular Holland-house at Keiisington, where the 
Nobility and Gentry who met (but in no great Num- 
bers) used to make a Sum for them, each giving a 
broad Peice, or the like. And Alexander Goffe, the 
Woman Actor at Black-friers (who had made himself 
known to Persons of Quality) used to be the Jackal, 
and give notice of Time and Place. At Christmass, 
and Bartlemew-fair, they used to Bribe the Officer 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXXI 

who Commanded die Guard at Whitehall, and were 
thereupon connived at to Act for a few Days, at the 
Red Bull ; but were sometimes notwithstanding 
Disturb'd by Soldiers. Some pickt up a httle Money 
by pubHshing the Copies of Plays never before 
Printed, but kept up in Manuscript. For instance, in 
the Year 1652, Beai^nont and Fletcher ?, Wild Goose 
Chace was Printed in P"olio, y^^r the Public use of all 
the higenious, (as the Title-page says) and private 
Beuejit of ]o\'\n Lowin a7id Joseph Tayler, Servants 
to his late Majesty ; and by them Dedicated To the 
Honour d few Lovers of Dramatick Poesy. Wherein 
they modestly intimate their Wants. And that with 
sufficient Cause ; for whatever they were before the 
Wars, they were, after, reduced to a necessitous Con- 
dition. Lowin in his latter Days, kept an Inn (the 
three Pidgions) at Bj'cntford, where he dyed very Old, 
(for he was an Actor of eminent Note in the Reign 
oiY^. James \^^ first) and his Poverty was as great as 
his Age. Tayler Dyed at Richmond 2ind was there 
Buried. Pollard who Lived Single, and had a Com- 
petent Estate ; Retired to some Relations he had in 
the Country, and there ended his Life. Perkins and 
Sumner of the Cockpit, kept House together at 
Clerkenwel, and were there Buried. These all Dyed 
some Years before the Restauration. What follow'd 
after, I need not tell you : You can easily Remember. 
LovEW. Yes, presently after the Restauration, the 
King's Players Acted publickly at the Red Bttll for 
some time, and then Removed to a New-built Play- 



XXXll AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

house in Vere-sireet, by Claremarket. There they 
continued for a Year or two, and then removed to 
the Theater Royal in Drury-lane, where they first 
made use of Scenes, which had been a little before 
introduced upon the publick Stage by Sir William 
Davenant at the Dukes Old Theater in Liiicolns- 
Inn-fields, but afterwards very much improved, with 
the Addition of curious Machines, by Mr. Bettert07t 
at the New Theater in Dorset-Gardeji, to the great 
Expence and continual Charge of the Players. This 
much impair'd their Profit o'er what it was before ; 
for I have been inform'd, (by one of 'em) That for 
several Years next after the Restauration, every whole 
Sharer in Mr. Hart'?, Company, got \oool. per an. 
About the same time that Scenes first enter'd upon 
the Stage at London, Women were taught to Act their 
own Parts ; since when, we have seen at both Houses 
several excellent Actresses, justly famed as well for 
Beauty, as perfect good Action. And some Plays (in 
particular The Parsons Wedding) have been Pre- 
sented all by Women, as formerly all by Men. Thus 
it continued for about 20 Years, when Mr. Hart and 
some of the Old Men began to grow weary, and were 
minded to leave off ; then the two Companies thought 
fit to Unite ; but of late, you see, they have thought it 
no less fit to Divide again, though both Companies 
keep the same Name of his Majesty's Servants. All 
this while the Play-house Musick improved Yearly, 
and is now arrived to greater Perfection than ever I 
knew it. Yet for all these Advantages, the Reputation 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXXlll 

of the Stage, and Peoples Affection to it, are much 
Decay'd. Some were lately severe against it, and 
would hardly allow Stage-Plays fit to be longer 
permitted. Have you seen Mr. Collier •=> book ? 

Trum. Yes, and his Opposer's. 

LovEW. And what think you ? 

Trum. In my mind Mr. Collier ?> Reflections 
are Pertinent, and True in the Main ; the Book inge- 
niously Writ, and well Intended : But he has over- 
shot himself in some Places ; and his Respondents, 
perhaps, in more. My Affection inclines me not to 
Engage on either side, but rather Mediate. If there 
be Abuses relating to the Stage ; (which I think is 
too apparent) let the Abuse be Reformed, and not 
the use, for that Reason only, Abolish'd. 'Twas an 
Old saying when I was a Boy, 

Absit Abusus, iion desit total ite)- Usus. 

I shall not run through Mr. Colliei^'s Book ; I will 
only touch a little on two or three general Notions, 
in which, I think he may be mistaken. What he 
urges out of the Primitive Councils, and Fathers of 
the Church, seems to me to be directed against the 
Heathen Plays, which were a sortof Religious Worship 
with them, to the Honour of Ceres, Flora, or some of 
their false Deities ; they had always a little Altar on 
their Stages, as appears plain enough from some 
places in Plauttts. And Mr. Collier himself, p. 235, 
tells us out of Livy, that Plays were brought in upon 
the Score of Religion, to pacify the Gods. No wonder 

c 



XXXIV AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

then, they forbid Christians to be present at them, 
for it was ahiiost the same as to be present at their 
Sacrifices. We must also observe that this was in 
the Infancy of Christianity, when the Church was 
under severe, and almost continual Persecutions, and 
when all its true Members were of most strict and 
exemplary Lives, not knowing when they should be 
call'd to the Stake, or thrown to Wild-Beasts. They 
communicated Daily, and expected Death hourly ; 
their thoughts were intent upon the next World, they 
abstain'd almost wholly from all Diversions and plea- 
sures (though lawfull and Innocent)-4fl^ this. After- 
wards when Persecution ceased, and the church 
flourisht, Christians being then freed from their 
former Terrors, allow'd themselves, at proper times, 
the lawfull Recreations of Conversation, and among 
other (no doubt) this of Shewes and Representations. 
After this time, the Censures of the Church indeed, 
might be continued, or revived, upon occasion, 
against Plays and Players ; tho' (in my Opinion) it 
cannot be understood generally, but only against such 
Players who were of Vicious and Licencious Lives, 
and represented profane Subjects, inconsistant with 
the Morals and probity of Manners requisite to 
Christians ; and frequented chiefly by such loose and 
Debaucht People, as were much more apt to Corrupt 
than Divert those who associated with them. I say, I 
cannot think the Canons and Censures of the Fathers 
can be applyed to all Players, quatemis Players ; for 
if so how could Plays be continued among the Chris- 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXXV 

tians, as they were, of Divine Subjects, and Scriptural 
Stories ? A late French Author, speaking of the 
Original of the Hotel da Bourgogne (a Play-house in 
Pai'is) says that the ancient Dukes of that Name 
gave it to the Brotherhood of the Passion, esta- 
blished in the Church of Trinity-Hospital in the 
R7te S. Denis, on condition that they should repre- 
sent here Interludes of Devotion : And adds that 
there have been public Shews in this Place 600 
Years ago. The Spanish and Portuguize continue 
still to have, for the most part, such Ecclesiastical 
Stories, for the Subject of their Plays : And, if we 
may believe Gage, they are Acted in their Churches 
in Mexico, and the Spanish West-Indies. 

LovEW. That's a great way off, Trtcman ; I had 
rather you would come nearer Home, and confine 
your discourse to Old England. 

Trum. So I intend. The same has been done 
here in England; for otherwise how comes it to be 
prohibited in the 88/// Canon, among those past in 
Convocation, 1603. Certain it is that our ancient 
Plays were of Religious Subjects, and had for their 
Actors, (if not Priests) yet Men relating to the Church. 

LovEW. How does that appear ? 

Trum. Nothing clearer. Stozu in his Survey of 
London, has one Chapter of the Sports and Pas- 
times of old time used in this City ; and there he 
tells us, That in the Year 1391 (which was 15 
R. 2.) a Stage- Play was play'd by the Parish- 
Clerks of London, , at the Skinner s-well beside 



XXXVl AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

S77iit/i/ield, which Play continued three Days to- 
gether, the King, Queen, and Nobles of the Realm 
being present. And another was play'd in the Year 
1409, (11 H. 4.) which lasted eight Days, and was 
of Matter from the Creation of the World ; whereat 
was present most part of the Nobility and Gentry of 
Eiigland. Sir William Dugdale, in his Antiquities 
of Warwickshire, p. 116, speaking of the Gray-friers 
(or Franciscans^ at Covc7itry, says, Before the sup- 
pression of the Monasteries, this City was very 
famous for the Pageants that were play'd therein 
upon Corpus-Christi Day ; which Pageants being 
acted with mighty State and Reverence by the Friers 
of this House, had Theatres for the several Scenes 
very large and high, plac'd upon Wheels, and drawn 
to all the eminent Parts of the City, for the better 
advantage of the Spectators ; and contain'd the Story 
of the New Testament, composed in old English 
Rhime. An ancient Manuscript of the same is now 
to be seen in the Cotlonian Library, Sicd Effig. 
Vespat. D. 8. Since the Reformation, in Queen 
ElizabetJis time. Plays were frequently acted by 
Quiristers and Singing Boys ; and several of our old 
Comedies have printed in the Title Page, Acted by 
the Children of Paul's, (not the School, but the 
Church) others. By the Childj^en of Her Majesty's 
Chappel ; in particular, Cinthias Revels, and the 
Poetaster were play'd by them ; who were at that 
time famous for good Action. Among Be7i. John- 
sons Epigrams you may find An Epitaph on S. P. 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXXvii 

(Sal Pavy) one of the Children of Queen Elizabeth's 
Chappel, part of which runs thus, 

Years he counted scarce Thirteen 

When Fates turn'd Cruel, 
Yet three filPd Zodiacks he had been 

The Stages Jciu ell ; 
And did act {what now we 7noan) 

Old Men so duly, 
As, sooth, the Parcse thought hitn one. 

He played so truly. 

Some of these Chappel Boys, when they grew Men, 
became Actors at the Black-friers ; such were Nathan 
Feild, and John Underwood. Now I can hardly 
imagine that such Plays and Players as these, are 
included in the severe Censure of the Councils and 
Fathers ; but such only who are truly within the 
Character given by Didacus de Tapia, cited by Mr. 
Collier, p. 276, viz. The Infamous Playhouse ; a place 
of contradiction to the strictness and sobriety of Reli- 
gion ; a place hated by God, and haunted by the Devil. 
And for such I have as great an abhorrance as any 
man. 

LovEW. Can you guess of what Antiquity the 
representing of Religious Matters, on the Stage, hath 
been in England"^ 

Trum. How long before the Conquest I know 
not, but that it was used in London not long after, 
appears by Fitz-Stevejis, an Author who wrote in 
the reign of King Henry the Second. His words 
are, Londonia pro spectaculis theatralibus, pro ludis 
scenicis, hidos habct sanctiores, Representationes mira- 



XXXVlll AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

culortnn, qiice sancti Confessores operati stmt, seu 
Representationes passionum quibus claruit constantia 
Martyrum. Of this, the Manuscript which I lately 
mention'd, in the Cottonian Library, is a notable 
instance. Sir William Dugdale cites this Manu- 
script, by the Title of LiidiLs CoventricB ; but in 
the printed Catalogue of that Library, p. 113, it is 
named thus, A Collection of Plays in old English 
Metre, h. e. Dramata sacra in qitibus exhibentur 
histories Veteris & JV. Testamenti, introductis quasi 
in Scenam pei^sonis illic memoratis, quas secum in- 
vicem colloquentes p7^o ingenio fingit Poeta. Viden- 
tiLr olim coram poptdo, sive ad iJistruendum sive ad 
placendum, a fratribus tnendicantibus reprc€sentata. 
It appears by the latter end of the Prologue, that 
these Plays or Interludes, were not only play'd at 
Coventry, but in other Towns and Places upon occa- 
sion. And possibly this may be the same Play which 
Stow tells us was play'd in the reign of King Hemy 
IV., which lasted for Eight Days. The Book seems 
by the Character and Language to be at least 300 
Years old. It begins with a general Prologue, giving 
the arguments of 40 Pageants or Gesticulations 
(which were as so many several Acts or Scenes) 
representing all the Histories of both Testaments, 
from the Creation, to the choosing of St. Mathias to 
be an Apostle. The Stories of the New Testament 
are more largely exprest, viz. The Annunciation, 
Nativity, Visitation ; but more especially all Matters 
relating to the Passion very particularly, the Resur- 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. XXXIX 

rectlon, Ascention, the choice of St. Mathias: After 
which is also represented the Assumption, and last 
Judgment. All these things were treated of in a 
very homely style, (as we now think) infinitely below 
the Dignity of the Subject : But it seems the Gust 
of that Age was not so nice and delicate in these 
Matters; the plain and incurious Judgment of our 
Ancestors, being prepared with favour, and taking 
every thing by the right and easiest Handle: For 
example, in the Scene relating to the Visitation : 

Maria. But husband of oo thyng pray you most mekely, 
I haue knowing that our Cosyn EUzabeth with childe is, 
That it please yow to go to her hastyly, 
If ought we myth comfort her it wer to me blys. 

Joseph. A Gods sake, is she with child, sche ? 
Than will her husband Zachary be mery. 
In Montana they dwelle, fer hence, so moty the, 
In the city of Juda, I know it verily ; 
It is hence I trowe myles two a fifty, 
We ar like to be wery or we come at the same. 
I wole with a good will, blessyd wyff Mary ; 
Now go we forth then in goddys name, &c. 

A little before the Resurrection : 

Nunc dormient militcs, e^ venid a?iiina Christi de i?ifcr)io, cum 
Adam 6^ Eva, Abraham, John Baptist, 6^ aiiis. 

Anima Christi. Come forth Adam, and Eve with the, 
And all my fryndes that herein be. 
In Paradys come forth with me 

In blysse for to dwelle. 
The fende of hell that is yowr foo 
He shall be wrappyd and woundyn in woo : 
Fro wo to welth now shall ye go, 

With myrth cucr mor to melle. 



xl AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

Adam. I thank the Lord of thy grete grace 
That now is forgiuen my gret trespace, 
Now shall we dvvellyn in blyssful pace, &c. 

The last Scene or Pageant, which represents the 
Day of Judgment, begins thus: 

Michael. Surgite, All men aryse, 
Venite ad judicium, 
For now is set the High Justice, 
And hath assignyd the day of Dome : 
Kepe you redyly to this grett assyse, 
Both gret and small, all and sum, 
And of yowr answer you now advise. 
What you shall say when that yow com, &c. 

These and such Hke, were the Plays which in 
former Ages were presented publickly : Whether 
they had any settled and constant Houses for that 
purpose, does not appear ; I suppose not. But it is 
notorious that in former times there was hardly ever 
any Solemn Reception of Princes, or Noble Persons, 
but Pageants (that is Stages Erected in the open 
Street) were part of the Entertainment. On which 
there were Speeches by one or more Persons, in the 
nature of Scenes ; and be sure one of the Speakers 
must be some Saint of the same Name with the 
Party to whom the Honour is intended. For in- 
stance, there is an ancient Manuscript at Coventry, 
call'd the Old Leet Book, wherein is set down in a 
very particular manner, (fo. i68) the reception of 
Queen Margaret, wife oi H. 6, who came to Coventry 
(and I think, with her, her young Son, Vrmz^ Edward) 
on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy-Cross, 35 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. xH 

H. 6. (1456). Many Pageants and Speeches were 

made for her Welcome ; out of all which, I shall 

observe but two or three, in the Old English, as it is 

Recorded. 

St. Edward. Moder of mekenes, Dame Margarete, princes 
most excellent, 
I King Edward wellcome you with affection cordial, 
Certefying to your highnes mekely myn entent, 
For the wele of the King and you hertily pray I shall, 
And for prince Edward my gostly chylde, who I love principal. 
Praying the, John Evangelist, my help therein to be. 
On that condition right humbly I giue this Ring to the. 

John Evangelist. Holy Edward crowned King, Brother in 
Verginity, 
My power plainly I will prefer thy will to amplefy. 
Most excellent princes of wymen mortal, your Bedeman will I be. 
I know your Life so vertuous that God is pleased thereby. 
The birth of you unto this Reme shall cause great Melody : 
The vertuous voice of Prince Edward shall dayly well encrease, 
St. Edward his Godfader and I shall pray therefore doubtlese. 

St. Margaret. Most notabul princes of wymen earthle, 
Dame Margarete, the chefe myrth of this Empyre, 
Ye be hertely welcome to this Cyte. 
To the plesure of your highnesse I wyll set my desyre ; 
Both nature and gentlenesse doth me require, 
Seth we be both of one name, to shew you kindnesse ; 
Wherefore by my power ye shall have no distresse. 

I shall pray to the Prince that is endlese 
To socour you with solas of his high grace ; 
He will here my petition this is doubtlesse. 
For I wrought all my life that his will wace. 
Therefore, Lady, when you be in any dredfull case, 
Call on me boldly, thereof I pray you. 
And trust in me feythfully, I will do that may pay you. 

In the next Reign (as appears in the same Book, 



xlli AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

fo. 22 1 ) an Other Prince Eciiuard, Son of King Edward 
the 4, came to Coventiy on the 28 oi April, \\E. 4, 
(1474) and was entertain'd with many Pageants and 
Speeches, among which I shall observe only two : 
one was of St. Edward again, who was then made 
to speak thus, 

Noble Prince Edward, my Cousin and my Knight, 
And very Prince of our Line com yn dissent, 
I Saint Edward have pursued for your faders imperial Right, 
Whereof he was excluded by full furious intent. 
Unto this your Chamber as prince full excellent 
Ye be right welcome. Thanked be Crist of his sonde, 
For that that was ours is now in your faders honde. 

The other Speech was from St. George \ and thus 
saith the Book. 

Also upon the Condite in the Croscheping was St. 

George armed, and a kings daughter kneling afore him with a 
Lamb, and the fader and the moder being in a Towre aboven 
beholding St. George saving their daughter from the Dragon, 
and the Condite renning wine in four places, and Minstralcy of 
Organ playing, and St. George hauing this Speech under- 
written. 

O mighty God our all succour celestiall. 
Which this Royme hast given in dower 
To thi moder, and to me George protection perpetuall 
It to defend from enimys fer and nere. 
And as this mayden defended was here 
By thy grace from this Dragons devour, 
So, Lord preserve this noble prince, and ever be his socour. 

LovEW. I perceive these holy Matters consisted 
very much of Praying ; but I pitty poor St. Edward 
the Confessor, who in the compass of a few Years, 
was made to promise his favour and assistance to 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. xHii 

two young Princes of the same Name Indeed, but of 
as different and opposite Interests as the two Poles. 
I know not how he could perform to both. 

Trum. Alas ! they were both unhappy, notwith- 
standing these fine Shews and seeming caresses 
of Fortune, being both murder'd, one by the Hand, 
the other by the procurement of Rich. Duke of 
Glocester. I will produce but one Example more of 
this sort of Action, or Representations, and that is of 
later time, and an instance of much higher Nature 
than any yet mentioned, it was at the marriage of 
Prince Artlmr, eldest Son of king Henry 7. to the 
Vrmc&ss Catherine oi Spain, An. 1501. Her passage 
through London was very magnificent, as I have 
read it described in an old M.S. Chronicle of that 
time. The Pageants and Speeches were many; the 
Persons represented St. Catherine, St. Ursnla, a 
Senator, Noblesse, Virtue, an Angel, King Alphonse, 
Job, Boetius, &c. among others one is thus described. 

When this Spech was ended, she held on her way tyll she 
cam unto the Standard in Chepe, where was ordeyned the fifth 
Pagend made like an hevyn, theryn syttyng a Personage represent- 
ing the fader of hevyn, beyng all formyd of Gold, and brennying 
beffor his trone vii Candyilis of wax standyng in vii Candyl- 
stykis of Gold, the said personage beyng environed wyth sundry 
Hyrarchies off Angelis, and sytting in a Cope of most rich cloth 
of Tyssu, garnishyd wyth stoon and perle in most sumptuous 
wyse. Foragain which said Pagend upon the sowth syde of the 
strete stood at that tyme, in a hows wheryn that tyme dwellyd 
William Geffrey habyrdasher, the king, the Quene, my Lady the 
Kingys moder, my Lord of Oxynfford, with many othir Lordys 
and Ladys, and Perys of this Realm, wyth also certayn Ambas- 
sadors of France lately sent from the French King ; and so 



xliv AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

passyng the said Estatys, eyther guyvyng to other due and con- 
venyent Saluts and Countenancs, so sone as hyr grace was 
approachid unto the sayd Pagend, the fadyr began his Spech as 
folowyth : 

Hunc venefaj/i locufn, septeno lumine septum. 
Dignumque Arthuri tot idem astra micant. 

I am begynyng and ende, that made ech creature 
My sylfe, and for my sylfe, but man esspecially 
Both male and female, made aftyr myne aun fygure, 
Whom I joyned togydyr in Matrimony 
And that in Paradyse, declaring opynly 
That men shall weddyng in my Chyrch solempnize, 
Fygurid and signifyed by the erthly Paradyze. 

In thys my Chyrch I am alhvay recydent 
As my chyeff tabernacle, and most chosyn place, 
Among these goldyn candylstikkis, which represent 
My Catholyk Chyrch, shynyng affor my face, 
With lyght of feyth, wisdom, doctryne, and grace, 
And mervelously eke enflamyd toward me 
Wyth the extyngwible fyre of Charyte. 

Wherefore, my welbelovid dowgthyr Katharj'n, 
Syth I have made yow to myne awn semblance 
In my Chyrch to be maried, and your noble Childryn 
To regn in this land as in their enher}'tance, 
Se that ye have me in speciall remembrance : 
Love me and my Chyrch yowr spiritual modyr. 
For ye dispysing that oon, dyspyse that othyr. 

Look that ye walk in my precepts, and obey them well : 
And here I give you the same blyssyng that I 
Gave my well beloved chylder of Israeli ; 
Blyssyd be the fruyt of your bely ; 

Yower substance and frutys I shall encrease and multyply; 
Yower rebellious Enimyes I shall put in yowr hand, 
Encreasing in honour both yow and yowr land. 

LovEW. This would be censured now a days as 
profane to the highest degree. 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. xlv 

Trum. No doubt on't : Yet you see there was 
a time when People were not so nicely censorious in 
these Matters, but were willing to take things in the 
best sence : and then this was thought a noble 
Entertainment for the greatest King in Eiirope 
(such I esteem King H. 7. at that time) and proper 
for that Day of mighty Joy and Triumph. And I 
must farther observe out of the Lord Bacons History 
of ^. 7. that the chief Man who had the care of that 
Days Proceedings was Bishop Fox, a grave Coun- 
celor for War or Peace, and also a good Surveyor 
of Works, and a good Master of Cerimonies, and it 
seems he approv'd it. The said Lord Bacon tells us 
farther, That whosoever had those Toys in com- 
piling, they were not altogether Pedantical. 

LovEW. These things however are far from that 
which we understand by the name of a Play. 

Trum. It may be so ; but these were the Plays 
of those times. Afterwards in the Reign of K. H. 8. 
both the Subject and Form of these Plays began to 
alter, and have since varied more and more. I 
have by me, a thing called A merry Play between 
the Pardoner and the Frere, the Cnrate and Neybour 
Pratte. Printed the 5 of April 1533, which was 
24 H. 8. (a few Years before the Dissolution of 
Monasteries). The design of this Play was to redi- 
cule Friers and Pardoners. Of which Fll give you a 
taste. To begin it, the Fryer enters with these Words, 

Deus hie ; the holy Trynyte 
Preseruc all that now here be. 



xlvi AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

Dere bretherne, yf ye will consyder 

The Cause why I am com hyder, 

Ye wolde be glad to knowe my entent ; 

For I com not hyther for mony nor for rent, 

I com not hyther for meat nor for meale, 

But I com hyther for your Soules heale, &c. 

After a long Preamble, he addresses himself to 
Preach, when the Pardoner enters with these 
Words, 

God and St. Leonarde send ye all his grace 
As many as ben assembled in this place, &c. 

And makes a long Speech, shewing his Bulls and his 
Reliques, in order to sell his Pardons for the raising 
some Money towards the rebuilding, 

Of the holy Chappell of sweet saynt Leonarde, 
Which late by fyre was destroyed and marde. 

Both these speaking together, with continual inter- 
ruption, at last they fall together by the Ears. Here 
the Curate enters (for you must know the Scene lies 
in the Church) 

Hold your hands ; a vengeance on ye both two 
That euer ye came hyther to make this ado, 
To polute my Chyrche, &:c. 

Fri. Mayster Parson, I marvayll ye will give Lycence 
To this false knaue in this Audience 
To publish his ragman roUes with lyes. 
I desyred hym ywys more than ones or twyse 
To hold his peas tyll that I had done, 
But he would here no more than the man in the mone. 

Pari. Why sholde I sufifre the, more than thou me ? 
Mayster parson gaue me lycence before the. 
And I wolde thou knowest it I have relykes here, 
Other maner stuffe than thou dost bere : 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. xlvii 

I wyll edefy more with the syght of it, 

Than will all thy pratynge of holy wryt ; 

For that except that the precher himselfe lyve well, 

His predycacyon wyll helpe never a dell, &c. 

Pars. No more of this wranglyng in my Chyrch : 
I shrewe your hertys bothe for this lurche. 
Is there any blood shed here between these knaues ? 
Thanked be god they had no stauys, 
Nor egotoles, for then it had ben wronge. 
Well, ye shall synge another songe. 

Here he calls his Neighbour /^r^/ the Constable, 
with design to apprehend 'em, and set 'em in the 
Stocks. But the Frier and Pardoner prove sturdy, 
and will not be stockt, but fall upon the poor Parson 
and Constable, and bang 'em both so well-favour'dly, 
that at last they are glad to let 'em go at liberty : And 
so the Farce ends with a drawn Battail. Such as this 
were the Plays of that Age, acted in Gentlemens 
Halls at Christmas, or such like festival times, by the 
Servants of the Family, or Strowlers who went about 
and made it a Trade. It Is not unlikely * Till the 25 Year 
that* Lords in those days, and Persons f Q-^'^ f^'^^' 

^ beth, the Queen 

of eminent Quality, had their several had not any 

, 1 r Players; but in 

Gangs of Players, as some have now 01 ^j^^^ year 12 of 
F idlers, to whom they orive Cloaks and the best of all 

^ those who be- 

Badges. The first Comedy that I have longed to several 
seen that looks like regular, is Gammer ^gn'&'s7oni\er 
Gurtons Needle, writ I think in the Servants, as 

.^^. „ . , . T-l • • Grooms of the 

reign 01 Kmg haward 6. i his is com- chamber, stow's 
posed of five Acts, the Scenes un- Annais,^..^^^^. 
broken, and the unities of Time and Place duly 



xlviii AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

observed. It was acted at Christ Colledge in Cam- 
bridge; there not being as yet any settled and publick 
Theaters. 

LovEW. I observe, Truman, from what you have 
said, that Plays in England had a beginning much 
like those oi Greece, the Monologues and the Pageants 
drawn from place to place on Wheels, answer exactly 
to the Cart of Thespis, and the Improvements have 
been by such little steps and degrees as among the 
Ancients, till at last, to use the Words of Sir George 
Buck (in his Third Uiiiversity of England) Dra- 
matic k Poesy is so lively exprest and represented tipon 
the publick Stages and Theatres of this City, as Rome 
in the KugQ [the highest pitch) of her Pomp and Glory, 
never sazv it better perform' d, I mean (says he) in 
respect of the Action and Art, and not of the Cost 
and Sumptiousjiess. This he writ about the Year 
1 63 1. But can you inform me Truman, when 
publick Theaters were first erected for this purpose 
in London ? 

Trum. Not certainly ; but I presume about the 
beofinninof of Oueen Elizabeths Reiorn. For Stow in 
his Survey of London (which Book was first printed 
in the Year 1598) says. Of late Years, in place of 
these Stage-plays (i. e. those of Religious Matters) 
have been tised Comedies, Tragedies, Lnteidudes,, and 
Histories, both true and feigned ; for the acting 
whereof certain publick Places, as the Theatre, the 
Curtine, &c. have been erected. And the continuator 
of Stows Annals, p. 1004, says. That in Sixty Years 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. xlix 

before the publication of that Book, (which was An. 
Dom. 1629) no less than 17 publick Stages, or 
common Playhouses, had been built in and about 
London. In which number he reckons five Inns or 
Common Osteries, to have been in his time turned 
into Play-houses, one Cock-pit, St. Pazd's singing 
School, one in the Biackfriers, one in the Whitefric7's, 
and one in former time at Newington Buts ; and 
adds, before the space of 60 years past, I never 
knew, heard, or read, of any such Theaters, set 
Stages, or Playhouses, as have been purposely built 
within Man's Memory. 

LovEW. After all, I have been told, that Stage- 
Plays are inconslstant with the Laws of this King- 
dom, and Players made Rogues by Statute. 

Trum. He that told you so strain'd a point of 
Truth. I never met with any Law wholly to sup- 
press them : Sometimes indeed they have been pro- 
hibited for a Season ; as in times of Letit, general 
Mourning or publick Calamities, or upon other 
occasions, when the Government saw fit. Thus by 
Proclamation, 7 of April, in the first Year of Queen 
Elizabeth, Plays and Interludes were forbid till All 
hallow-tide next following. Hollinshed, p. 1 1 84. Some 
Statutes have been made for their Regulation or 
Reformation, not general suppression. By the Stat. 
39 Eliz. c. 4, (which was made/^r the suppressing of 
Rogues, Vagabonds and sturdy Beggars) it is enacted, 

S. 2, That all persons that be, or utter themselves to be, 
Proctors, Procurers, Patent gatherers, or Collectors for Gaols, 

d 



1 AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT 

Prisons or Hospitals, or Fencers, Barewards, common players of 
Interludes and Ministrels, wandering abroad, (other than Players 
of Interludes belonging to any Baron of this Realm, or any other 
honourable Personage of greater Degree, to be authoriz'd to play 
under the Hand and Seal of Arms of such Baron or Personage) 
All Juglers, Tinkers, Pedlers, and Petty chapmen, wandering 
abroad, all wandring Persons, &c. able in Body, using loytering, 
and refusing to work for such reasonable Wages as is commonly 
given, &c. These shall be ajudged and deemed Rogues, Vaga- 
bonds and sturdy Beggars, and punished as such. 

LovEW. But this priviledge of Authorizing or 
Licensing, is taken away by the Stat, i J a. i . ch. 7, S. i , 
and therefore all of them (as Mr. Collier sdiys,^. 242) 
are expresly brought under the foresaid Penalty, 
without distinction. 

Trum. If he means all Players, without distinc- 
tion, 'tis a ereat Mistake. For the force of the 
Queens Statute extends only to wandring Players, 
and not to such as are the King or Queen's Ser- 
vants, and establisht in settled Houses by Royal 
Authority. On such, the ill Character of vagrant 
Players (or as they are now called, Strolers) can 
cast no more aspersion, than the wandring Proctors, 
in the same Statute mentioned, on those of Doctors- 
Commons. By a Stat, made 3 Ja. I. ch. 21. It 
was enacted. 

That if any person shall in any Stage-play, Enterlude, Shew, 
Maygame, or Pageant, jestingly or prophanely speak or use the 
holy name of God, Christ Jesus, the holy Ghost, or of the Trinity, 
he shall forfeit for every such offence, 10/. 

The Stat, i Char. I. ch. i, enacts. 

That no Meetings, Assemblies, or concourse of People shall be 



OF THE ENGLISH STAGE. H 

out of their own Parishes, on the Lords day, for any Sports or 
Pastimes whatsoever, nor any Bear-bating, Bull-bating, Enter- 
ludes, Common Plays, or other unlawful Exercises and Pastimes 
used by any person or persons within their own Parishes. 

These are all the Statutes that I can think of relatino- 
to the Stage and Players ; but nothing to suppress 
them totally, till the two Ordinances of the Long 
Parliament, one of the 22 of October 1647, the other 
of the II of Feb. 1647. By which all Stage-Plays 
and Interludes are absolutely forbid ; the Stages, 
Seats, Galleries, &€. to be pulled down ; all Players 
tho' calling themselves the King or Queens Servants, 
if convicted of acting within two Months before such 
Conviction, to be punished as Rogues according to 
Law; the Money received by them to go to the 
Poor of the Parish ; and every Spectator to Pay 5^-. 
to the use of the Poor. Also Cock-fighting was 
prohibited by one of Olivers Acts of 31 Mar. 1654. 
But I suppose no body pretends these things to be 
Laws ; I could say more on this Subject, but I must 
break off here, and leave you, Lovewit ; my Occa- 
sions require it. 

Love. Farewel, Old Cavalier. 

Trum. 'Tis properly said ; we are almost all of 
us, now, gone and forgotten. 



15 January, 14 Car. II. 1662. 

A Copy of the Letters Patents then granted by- 
King Charles II. under the Great Seal of 
England, to Sir William D'avenant, Knt. 
his Heirs and Assigns, for erecting a new 
Theatre, and establishing of a company of 
actors in any place within London or Westmin- 
ster, or the Suburbs of the same : And that no 
other but this company, and one other com- 
pany, by virtue of a like Patent, to Thomas 
Killigrew, Esq. ; should be permitted within 
the said liberties. 

Charles the second, by the Grace of God, king of 
England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of 
the faith, &c. to all to whom all these presents shall 
come, greeting. 

Whereas our royal father of glorious ^^^-^^^ ^^^^^^ 
memory, by his letters patents under his patents, 14 Cai. 

, - , , I. ann. 1639, 

great seal of England bearmg date at to sir wiii. 
Westminster the 26th day of March, in D'avenant. 
the 14th year of his reign, did give and grant unto 
Sir William D'avenant (by the name of William 
D'avenant, gent.) his heirs, executors, administrators, 



liv LETTERS PATENT FOR 

and assigns, full power, licence, and authority, That 
he, they, and every of them, by him and themselves, 
and by all and every such person and persons as he 
or they should depute or appoint, and his and their 
laborers, servants, and workmen, should and might, 
lawfully, quietly, and peaceably, frame, erect, new 
build, and set up, upon a parcel of ground, lying 
near unto or behind the Three Kings ordinary in 
Fleet-street, in the parishes of St. Dunstan's in the 
West, London ; or in St. Bride's, London ; or in 
either of them, or in any other ground in or about 
that place, or in the whole street aforesaid, then 
allotted to him for that use ; or in any other place 
that was, or then after should be assigned or allotted 
out to the said Sir William D'avenant by Thomas 
Earl of Arundel and Surry, then Earl Marshal of 
England, or any other commissioner for building, 
for the time being in that behalf, a theatre or play- 
house, with necessary tiring and retiring rooms, and 
other places convenient, containing in the whole 
forty yards square at the most, wherein plays, 
musical entertainments, scenes, or other the like 
presentments might be presented. And our said 
royal father did grant unto the said Sir William 
D'avenant, his heirs, executors, and administrators 
and assignes, that it should and might be lawful to 
and for him the said Sir William D'avenant, his 
heirs, executors, administrators, and assignes, from 
time to time, to gather together, entertain, govern, 
privilege, and keep, such and so many players and 



ERECTING A NEW THEATRE. Iv 

persons to exercise actions, musical presentments, 
scenes, dancing, and the like, as he the said Sir 
William D'avenant, his heirs, executors, administra- 
tors, or assignes, should think fit and approve for 
the said house. And such persons to permit and 
continue, at and during the pleasure of the said Sir 
William D'avenant, his heirs, executors, administra- 
tors, or assignes, from time to time, to act plays in 
such house so to be by him or them erected, 
and exercise musick, musical presentments, scenes, 
dancing, or other the like, at the same or other 
houses or times, or after plays are ended, peaceably 
and quietly, without the impeachment or impedi- 
ment of any person or persons whatsoever, for the 
honest recreation of such as should desire to see the 
same ; and that it should and might be lawful to 
and for the said Sir William D'avenant, his heirs, 
executors, administrators, and assigns, to take and 
receive of such as should resort to see or hear any 
such plays, scenes, and entertainments whatsoever, 
such sum or sums of money as was or then after, 
from time to time, should be accustomed to be given 
or taken in other play-houses and places for the like 
plays, scenes, presentments, and entertainments as 
in and by the said letters patents, relation being 
thereunto had, more at large may appear. 

And whereas we did, by our letters 

13 Car. II. ex- 
patents under the great seal of England, empiification of 

bearing date the i6th day of May, in iJ!n\,.''""^ ^'''' 

the 13th year of our reign, exemplifie 



Ivi LETTERS PATENT FOR 

the said recited letters patents granted by our royal 
father, as in and by the same, relation being there- 
unto had, at large may appear. 

And whereas the said Sir William s>^ 

Surrender of -r-., i 

both to the king D avcnant hath surrendered our letters 
in the court of patents of exemplification, and also the 

Chancery. ■•■ '■ 

said recited letters patents granted by 
our royal father, into our Court of Chancery, to be 
cancelled ; which surrender we have accepted, and 
do accept by these presents. 

Know ye that we of our especial 

New grant to Sir 

wiiHam D'ave- grace. Certain knowledge, and meer 
nant, his heirs j^q^Jq^, and upou the humblc petition 

and assignes. i '^ 

of the said Sir William D'avenant, and 
in consideration of the grood and faithful service 
which he the said Sir William D'avenant hath done 
unto us, and doth intend to do for the future ; and 
in consideration of the said surrender, have given 
and granted, and by these presents, for us, our heirs 
and successors, do give and grant, unto the said Sir 
William D'avenant, his heirs, executors, administra- 
tors, and assigns, full power, licence, and authority, 
that he, they, and every one of them, by him and 
themselves, and by all and every such person and 
persons as he or they should depute or appoint, and 
his or their labourers, servants, and workmen, shall 

and may lawfully, peaceably, and quietly, 

To erect a thea- i m i i 

tre in London frame, ercct, uew build, and set up, m 
or Westmister, ^ placo withiu our cltics of Loudon 

or the suburbs. •' ^ 

and Westminster, or the suburbs thereof, 



ERECTING A NEW THEATRE. Ivli 

where he or they shall find best accommodation for 
that purpose ; to be assigned and allotted out by the 
surveyor of our works ; one theatre or play-house, 
with necessary tiring and retiring rooms, and other 
places convenient, of such extent and dimention as 
the said Sir William D'avenant, his heirs or assigns 
shall think fitting : wherein tragedies, comedies, 
plays, operas, musick, scenes, and all other enter- 
tainments of the stage whatsoever, may be shewed 
and presented. 

And we do hereby, for us, our heirs and successors, 
grant unto the said Sir William D'avenant, his heirs 
and assigns, full power, licence, and authority, from 
time to time, to gather together, entertain, govern, 
priviledo^e and keep, such and so many 

^ ^ ^ , •' And to enter- 

players and persons to exercise and act tain players, &c. 

tragedies, comedies, plays, operas, and |he'"'\j^peach! 
other performances of the stage, within ment of any 

, ., - . , person. 

the house to be built as aforesaid, or 
within the house in Lincoln's- Inn-Fields, wherein 
the said Sir William D'avenant doth now exercise 
the premises ; or within any other house, where he 
or they can best be fitted for that purpose, within 
our cities of London and Westminster, or the 
suburbs thereof; which said company shall be the 
servants of our dearly beloved brother, James Duke 
of York, and shall consist of such number as the 
said Sir William D'avenant, his heirs or assigns, 
shall from time to time think meet. And such per- 
sons to permit and continue at and during the 



Ivlii LETTERS PATENT FOR 

pleasure of the said Sir William D'avenant, his heirs 
or assigns, from time to time, to act plays and enter- 
tainments of the stage, of all sorts, peaceably and 
quietly, without the impeachment or impediment of 
any person or persons whatsoever, for the honest 
recreation of such as shall desire to see the same. 

And that it shall and may be lawful to and for the 
said Sir William D'avenant, his heirs and assigns, to 
take and receive of such our subjects as shall resort 
to see or hear any such plays, scenes and entertain- 
ments whatsoever, such sum or sums of money, as 
either have accustomably been given and taken in 
the like kind, or as shall be thought reasonable by 
him or them, in regard of the great expences of 
scenes, musick, and such new decorations, as have 
not been formerly used. 

And further, for us, our heirs, and successors, we 
do hereby give and grant unto the said Sir William 
D'avenant, his heirs and assigns, full power to make 
such allowances out of that which he shall so receive, 
by the acting of plays and entertainments of the 
stage, as aforesaid, to the actors and other persons 
imployed in acting, representing, or in any quality 
whatsoever, about the said theatre, as he or they 
shall think fit ; and that the said company shall be 
under the sole government and authority of the said 
Sir William D'avenant, his heirs and assigns. And 
all scandalous and mutinous persons shall from time 
to time be by him and them ejected and disabled 
from playing in the said theatre. 



ERECTING A NEW THEATRE. llx 

And for that we are informed that 

. That no other 

divers companies of players have taken company but 
upon them to act plays publicly in our 0^^^'^ .J^n^jer mT 
said cities of London and Westminster, Kiiiigrew, be 

111, P . , , permitted to act 

or the suburbs thereof, without any autho- within London 
rity for that purpose ; we do hereby ^"^ Westmmster 

•' ^ ^ "^ or the suburbs. 

declare our dislike of the same, and will 
and grant that only the said company erected and 
set up, or to be erected and set up by the said Sir 
William D'avenant, his heirs and assigns, by virtue 
of these presents, and one other company erected 
and set up, or to be erected and set up by Thomas 
Kiiiigrew, Esq., his heirs or assigns, and none other, 
shall from henceforth act or represent comedies, 
tragedies, plays, or entertainments of the stage, 
within our said cities of London and Westminster, 
or the suburbs thereof; which said company to be 
erected by the said Thomas Kiiiigrew, his heirs or 
assigns, shall be subject to his and their government 
and authority, and shall be stiled the Company of 
Us and our Royal Consort. 

And the better to preserve amity and correspon- 
dency betwixt the said companies, and that the one 
may not incroach upon the other by any indirect 
means, we will and ordain, That no actor 

, 111 '1 -No actor to go 

or other person employed about either from one com- 
of the said theatres, erected by the said i'^"^ ^" '^^'-' 

other. 

Sir William D'avenant and Thomas Kii- 
iigrew, or either of them, or deserting his company, 
shall be received by the governor or any of the said 



Ix LETTERS PATENT FOR 

Other company, or any other person or persons, to 
be employed in acting, or in any matter relating to 
the stage, without the consent and approbation of 
the governor of the company, whereof the said 
person so ejected or deserting was a member, signi- 
fied under his hand and seal. And we do by these 
presents declare all other company and companies, 
saving the two companies before mentioned, to be 
silenced and suppressed. 

And forasmuch as many plays, formerly acted, do 
contain several prophane, obscene, and scurrilous 
passages ; and the womens parts therein have been 
acted by men in the habits of women, at which some 
have taken offence : for the preventing of these 
abuses for the future, we do hereby straitly charge 
and command and enjoyn, that from henceforth no 
new play shall be acted by either of the said com- 
panies, containing any passages offensive to piety 
and good manners, nor any old or revived play, 
containing any such offensive passages as aforesaid, 
until the same shall be corrected and 

To correct plays, , , , . , 

&c. purged, by the said masters or governors 

of the said respective companies, from 
all such offensive and scandalous passages, as afore- 
said. And we do likewise permit and give leave 
that all the womens parts to be acted in either of 
the said two companies for the time to come, may 
be performed by women, so long as these recrea- 
tions, which, by reason of the abuses aforesaid, 
were scandalous and offensive, may by such reforma- 



ERECTING A NEW THEATRE. 1 



XI 



tion be esteemed, not only harmless delights, but 
useful and instructive representations of humane 
life, to such of our good subjects as shall resort to 
see the same. 

And these our letters patents, or the _, 

■■■ ^ _ These letters 

inrolment thereof, shall be in all things patents to be 
good and effectual in the law, according Jj°" irf^heVw 
to the true intent and meaning of the according to the 

, true meaning 

same, any thmg m these presents con- of the same, 
tained, or any law, statute, act, ordi- although, &c. 
nance, proclamation, provision, restriction, or any 
other matter, cause, or thing whatsoever to the con- 
trary, in any wise notwithstanding; although express 
mention of the true yearly value, or certainty of the 
premises, or of any of them, or of any other gifts 
or grants by us, or by any of our progenitors or pre- 
decessors, heretofore made to the said Sir William 
D'avenant in these presents, is not made, or any 
other statute, act, ordinance, provision, proclama- 
tion, or restriction heretofore had, made, enacted, 
ordained, or provided, or any other matter, cause, or 
thing whatsoever to the contrary thereof, in any wise 
notwithstanding. In witness whereof, we have caused 
these our letters to be made patents. Witness our 
self at Westminster, the fifteenth day of January, in 
the fourteenth year of our reign. 

By the King. 

HOWARD. 



A N 

O L O G Y 

FOR THE 

LIFE 

O F 

il^r.CoLLEY C1BBER5 Comedian^ 

AND 

Late Patentee of the Theatre-Roy aL 

With an Hijloricat View of the Stage during 
his O w N Time. 

Written by Himself. 

Hoc ejl 

V'lvere bis, vita pojfe prior e frui. Mart. lib. 2. 

When Tears no more of a5live Life retain^ 

'Tis Youth renew'' dy to laugh ''em o'er again. Anonym. 

The Second Edition. 



LONDON: 

Printed by J o h n W a t t s for the Author: 

And Sold by W. Lewis in Ruffel-Street, near 

Convent - Garden. 



MDCCXL. 



TO A 
CERTAIN GENTLEMAN/ 

BECAUSE I know It would give you less Con- 
cern to find your Name in an impertinent 
Satyr, than before the daintiest Dedication of a 
modern Author, I conceal it. 

Let me talk never so idly to you, this way ; you are, 
at least, under no necessity of taking It to yourself : 
Nor when I boast of your favours, need you blush 
to have bestow'd them. Or I may now give you 

^ The Right Honourable Henry Pelham. Davies (" Life of 
Garrick," ii. 377) says that the "Apology" was dedicated to 
" that wise and honest minister," Pelham. John Taylor (" Records 
of my Life," i. 263) writes : " The name of the person to whom 
the Dedication to the 'Apology' was addressed is not mentioned, 
but the late Mr. John Kemble assured me that he had authority 
for saying it was Mr. Pelham, brother to the Duke of Newcastle." 
From the internal evidence it seems quite clear that this is so. In 
the Verses to Gibber quoted in "The Egotist," p. 69, the authoress 
writes : — 

" Sojiie praise a Patron and reveal him : 
Von paint so true, you canH conceal him. 
Their (^audy Praise undue but shames hiju, 
Wliile your's hy Likeness only names him." 

e 



Ixvi DEDICATION. 

all the Attributes that raise a wise and orood-natur'd 
Man to Esteem and Happiness, and not be cen- 
sured as a Flatterer by my own or your Enemies. 

I place my own first ; because as they are the 

greater Number, I am afraid of not paying the 
greater Respect to them. Yours, if such there are, 
I imagine are too well-bred to declare themselves : 
But as there is no Hazard or visible Terror in an 
Attack upon my defenceless Station, my Censurers 
have generally been Persons of an intrepid Sincerity. 
Having therefore shut the Door against them while 
I am thus privately addressing you, I have little to 
apprehend from either of them. 

Under this Shelter, then, I may safely tell you. 
That the greatest Encouragement I have had to 
publish this Work, has risen from the several Hours 
of Patience you have lent me at the Reading it. It 
is true, I took the Advantage of your Leisure in the 
Country, where moderate Matters serve for Amuse- 
ment ; and there, indeed, how far your Good-nature 
for an old Acquaintance, or your Reluctance to put 
the Vanity of an Author out of countenance, may 
have carried you, I cannot be sure; and yet Appear- 
ances give me stronger Hopes : For was not the 
Complaisance of a whole Evening's Attention as 
much as an Author of more Importance ought to 
have expected ? Why then was I desired the next 
Day to give you a second Lecture ? Or why was I 
kept a third Day with you, to tell you more of the 
same Story ? If these Circumstances have made 



DEDICATION. Ixvii 

me vain, shall I say, Sir, you are accountable for 
them ? No, Sir, I will rather so far flatter myself 
as to suppose it possible. That your having been a 
Lover of the Stage (and one of those few good 
Judges who know the Use and Value of it, under a 
right Regulation) might incline you to think so 
copious an Account of it a less tedious Amusement, 
than it may naturally be to others of different good 
Sense, who may have less Concern or Taste for it. 
But be all this as it may ; the Brat is now born, and 
rather than see it starve upon the Bare Parish Pro- 
vision, I chuse thus clandestinely to drop it at your 
Door, that it may exercise One of your Many Virtues, 
your Charity, in supporting it. 

If the World were to know into whose Hands I 
have thrown it, their Regard to its Patron might 
incline them to treat it as one of his Family : But in 
the Consciousness of what I am, I chuse not. Sir, to 
say who you arc. If your Equal in Rank were to 
do publick Justice to your Character, then, indeed, 
the Concealment of your Name might be an un- 
necessary Diffidence: But am I, Sir, of Consequence 

enough, in any Guise, to do Honour to Mr. ? 

Were I to set him in the most laudable Lights that 
Truth and good Sense could give him, or his own 
Likeness would require, my officious Mite would 
be lost In that oreneral Esteem and Recrard which 
People of the first Consequence, even of different 
Parties, have a Pleasure in paying him. Enco- 
miums to Superiors from Authors of lower Life, as 



Ixvni DEDICATION. 

they are naturally liable to Suspicion, can add very 
little Lustre to what before was visible to the publick 
Eye : Such Offerings (to use the Stile they are 
generally dressed in) like Pagan Incense, evaporate 
on the Altar, and rather gratify the Priest than the 
Deity. 

But you, Sir, are to be approached in Terms 
within the Reach of common Sense : The honest 
Oblation of a chearful Heart is as much as you 
desire or I am able to bring you : A Heart that has 
just Sense enough to mix Respect with Intimacy, 
and is never more delighted than when your rural 
Hours of Leisure admit me, with all my laughing 
Spirits, to be my idle self, and in the whole Day's 
Possession of you ! Then, indeed, I have Reason 
to be vain ; I am, then, distinguish'd by a Pleasure 
too great to be conceal'd, and could almost pity the 
Man of graver Merit that dares not receive it with 
the same unguarded Transport ! This Nakedness of 
Temper the World may place in what Rank of 
Folly or Weakness they please ; but 'till Wisdom 
can give me something that will make me more 
heartily happy, I am content to be gaz'd at as I 
am, without lessening my Respect for those whose 
Passions may be more soberly covered. 

Yet, Sir, will I not deceive you ; 'tis not the 
Lustre of your publick Merit, the Affluence of your 
P^ortune, your high Figure in Life, nor those honour- 
able Distinctions, which you had rather deserve than 
be told of, that have so many Years made my plain 



DEDICATION. Ixix 

Heart hang after you : These are but incidental 
Ornaments, that, 'tis true, may be of Service to you 
in the World's Opinion ; and though, as one among 
the Crowd, I may rejoice that Providence has so 
deservedly bestow'd them ; yet my particular Attach- 
ment has risen from a meer natural and more 
engaging Charm, The Agreeable Companion ! Nor 
is my Vanity half so much gratified in the Honoitr, 
as my Sense is in the Delight of your Society ! 
When I see you lay aside the Advantages of Supe- 
riority, and by your own Chearfulness of Spirits 
call out all that Nature has given me to meet them ; 
then 'tis I taste you ! then Life runs high ! I desire ! 
I possess you ! 

Yet, Sir, in this distinguish'd Happiness I give 
not up my farther Share of that Pleasure, or of that 
Right I have to look upon you with the publick 
Eye, and to join in the general Regard so unani- 
mously pay'd to that uncommon Virtue, your Inte- 
grity I This, Sir, the World allows so conspicuous 
a Part of your Character, that, however invidious 
the Merit, neither the rude License of Detraction, 
nor the Prejudice of Party, has ever once thrown 
on it the least Impeachment or Reproach. This is 
that commanding Power that, in publick Speaking, 
makes you heard with such Attention ! This it is 
that discourages and keeps silent the Insinuations 
of Prejudice and Suspicion ; and almost renders 
your Eloquence an unnecessary Aid to your Asser- 
tions : Even your Opponents, conscious of your Inte- 



IXX DEDICATION. 

grity, hear you rather as a Witness than an Orator — 
But this, Sir, is drawing you too near the Light, 
Integrity is too particular a Virtue to be cover'd 
with a general Application. Let me therefore only 
talk to you, as at TtLsadum (for so I will call that 
sweet Retreat, which your own Hands have rais'd) 
where like the fam'd Orator of old, when publick 
Cares permit, you pass so many rational, unbending 
Hours : There ! and at such Times, to have been 
admitted, still plays in my Memory more like a 
fictitious than a real Enjoyment ! How many 
golden Evenings, in that Theatrical Paradise of 
water'd Lawns and hanging Groves, have I walk'd 
and prated down the Sun in social Happiness ! 
Whether the Retreat of Cicero, in Cost, Magni- 
ficence, or curious Luxury of Antiquities, might 
not out-blaze the simplex Mwtditiis, the modest 
Ornaments of your Villa, is not within my readino- 
to determine : But that the united Power of Nature, 
Art, or Elegance of Taste, could have thrown so 
many varied Objects into a more delightful Har- 
mony, is beyond my Conception. 

When I consider you in this View, and as the 
Gentleman of Eminence surrounded with the greneral 
Benevolence of Mankind ; I rejoice, Sir, for you 
and for myself ; to see Yoil in this particular Lio-ht 
of Merit, and myself sometimes admitted to my 
more than equal Share of you. 

If this Apology for my past Life discourages you 
not from holding me in your usual Favour, let me 



DEDICATION. 1 



XXI 



quit this greater Stage, the World, whenever I 
may, I shall think This the best-acted Part of any 
I have undertaken, since you first condescended to 
laugh with, 

Your most obedient, 
most obliged, and 

most humble Serva7it, 

COLLEY ClBLER. 
Novemb. 6. 
1739- 




AN APOLOGY FOR THE LIFE OF 
MR. COLLEY GIBBER, &c.^ 

GHAPTER I. 

The Introduction. The Author's Birth. Various Fortune at School. 
Not lik'd by those he lov'd there. Why. A Digressioti upon 
Raillery. The Use and Abuse of it. The Comforts of Folly. 
Vanity of Greatness. Laughing^ fio bad Philosophy. 

YOU know, Sir, I have often told you that one 
time or other I should give the Publick some 
Memoirs of my own Life ; at which you have never 
fail'd to laugh, like a Friend, without saying a word to 

* Gibber, in Chapter ix., mentions that he is writing his 
Apology at Bath, and Fielding, in the mock trial of " Col. Apol." 



THE LIFE OF 



dissuade me from it ; concluding, I suppose, that such 
a wild Thought could not possibly require a serious 
Answer. But you see I was in earnest. And now 
you will say the World will find me, under my own 
Hand, a weaker Man than perhaps I may have pass'd 
for, even among my Enemies. — With all my Heart ! 
my Enemies will then read me with Pleasure, and 
you, perhaps, with Envy, when you find that Follies, 
without the Reproach of Guilt upon them, are not 
inconsistent with Happiness. — But why make my 
Follies publick ? Why not ? I have pass'd my Time 
very pleasantly with them, and I don't recollect that 
they have ever been hurtful to any other Man living. 
Even admitting they were injudiciously chosen, 
would it not be Vanity in me to take Shame to myself 
for not being found a Wise Man ? Really, Sir, my 
Appetites were in too much haste to be happy, to 
throw away my Time in pursuit of a Name I was 
sure I could never arrive at. 

Now the Follies I frankly confess I look upon as 
in some measure discharged ; while those I conceal 
are still keeping the Account open between me and 

given in "The Champion" of 17th May, 1740, indicts the Pri- 
soner " for that you, not having the Fear of Grammar before your 
Eyes, on the of at a certain Place, called the 

Bath^ in the County of Somerset, in Knights-Bridge, in the County 
of Middlesex, in and upon the English Language an Assault did 
make, and then and there, with a certain Weapon called a Goose- 
quill, value one Farthing, which you in your left Hand then held, 
several very broad Wounds but of no Depth at all, on the said 
English Language did make, and so you the said Col. Apol. the 
said English Language did murder." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 3 

my Conscience. To me the Fatigue of being upon 
a continual Guard to hide them is more than the Re- 
putation of being without them can repay. If this be 
Weakness, defendit jzumerus, I have such comfortable 
Numbers on my side, that were all Men to blush that 
are not Wise, I am afraid, in Ten, Nine Parts of the 
World ought to be out of Countenance :^ But since 
that sort of Modesty is what they don't care to come 
into, why should I be afraid of being star'd at for not 
being particular ? Or if the Particularity lies in 
owning my Weakness, will my wisest Reader be so 
inhuman as not to pardon it } But if there should 
be such a one, let me at least beg him to shew me 
that strange Man who is perfect ! Is any one more 
unhappy, more ridiculous, than he who is always 
labouring to be thought so, or that is impatient when 
he is not thought so ? Having brought myself to be 
easy under whatever the World may say of my 
Undertaking, you may still ask me why I give 
myself all this trouble ? Is it for Fame, or Profit to 
myself,^ or Use or Delight to others ? For all these 

^ This seems to be a favourite argument of Gibber. In his 
"Letter" to Pope, 1742, he answers Pope's line, "And has not 
CoUey still his Lord and Whore ? " at great length, one of his argu- 
ments being that the latter accusation, " without some particular 
Circumstances to aggravate the Vice, is the flattest Piece of Satyr 
that ever fell from the formidable Pen of Mr. Fope: because 
{defendit nmnerus) take the first ten thousand Men you meet, and 
I believe, you would be no Loser, if you betted ten to one that 
every single Sinner of them, one with another, had been guilty of 
the same Frailty." — p. 46. 

'^ Gibber's '• Apology " must have been a very profitable book. 

B 



//6 



4 THE LIFE OF 

Considerations I have neither Fondness nor Indif- 
ference : If I obtain none of them, the Amusement, 
at worst, will be a Reward that must constantly go 
along with the Labour. But behind all this there is 
something inwardly inciting, which I cannot express 
in few Words ; I must therefore a little make bold 
with your Patience. 

A Man who has pass'd above Forty Years of his 
Life upon a Theatre, where he has never appear'd 
to be Himself, may have naturally excited the 
Curiosity of his Spectators to know what he really 
was when in no body's Shape but his own ; and 
whether he, who by his Profession had so long been 
ridiculing his Benefactors, might not, when the Coat 

It was published in one volume quarto in 1740, and in the same 
year the second edition, one volume octavo, was issued. A third 
edition appeared in 1750, also in one volume octavo, Davies 
("Dramatic Miscellanies," iii. 506) says: "Gibber must have 
raised considerable contributions on the public by his works. To 
say nothing of the sums accumulated by dedications, benefits, and 
the sale of his plays singly, his dramatic works, in quarto, by sub- 
scription, pubHshed 1721, produced him a considerable sum of 
money. It is computed that he gained, by the excellent Apology 
for his Life, no less than the sum of ;;^i,5oo." "The Laureat" 
(1740) is perhaps Davies's authority for his computation. '■'•In- 
genious indeed, who from such a Pile of indigested incoherent 
Ideas huddled together by the Misnomer of a History, could raise 
a Contribution on the Town (if Fame says true) of Fifteen hun- 
dred Pounds." — " Laureat," p. 96. 

Gibber no doubt kept the copyright of the first and second 
editions in his own hands. In 1750 he sold his copyright to 
Robert Dodsley for the sum of fifty guineas. The original assign- 
ment, which bears the date "March y'^ 24'*', 1749/50," is in the 
collection of Mr. Julian Marshall. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 5 

of his Profession was off, deserve to be laugh'd at 
himself; or from his being often seen in the most 
flaerant and immoral Characters, whether he micrht 
not see as ereat a Roofue when he look'd into the 
Glass himself as when he held it to others. 

It was doubtless from a Supposition that this sort 
of Curiosity wou'd compensate their Labours that so 
many hasty Writers have been encourag'd to publish 
the Lives of the late Mrs. Oldfield, Mr. Wilks, and 
Mr. Booth, in less time after their Deaths than one 
could suppose it cost to transcribe them.^ 

Now, Sir, when my Time comes, lest they shou'd 
think it worth while to handle my Memory with the 
same Freedom, I am willing to prevent its being so 
odly besmear'd (or at best but flady white-wash'd) 
by taking upon me to give the Publick This, as true 
a Picture of myself as natural Vanity will permit me 
to draw : For to promise you that I shall never be 
vain, were a Promise that, like a Looking-glass too 
large, might break itself in the making : Nor am I 
sure I ought wholly to avoid that Imputation, be- 
cause if Vanity be one of my natural Features, the 

' Of Mrs. Oldfield there was a volume of " Authentick Me- 
moirs" published in 1730, the year she died; and in 1731 
appeared Egerton's " Faithful Memoirs," and " The Lover's Mis- 
cellany," in which latter are memoirs of Mrs. Oldfield's '* Life and 
Amours." Three memoirs of Wilks immediately followed his 
death, the third of which was written by Curll, who denounces the 
other two as frauds. Benjamin Victor wrote a memoir of Booth 
which was published in the year of his death, and there was one 
unauthorized memoir issued in the same year. Bellchambers 
instances the Life of Congreve as another imposition. 



THE LIFE OF 



Portrait wou'd not be like me without it. In a Word, 
I may palliate and soften as much as I please ; but 
upon an honest Examination of my Heart, I am 
afraid the same Vanity which makes even homely 
People employ Painters to preserve a flattering 
Record of their Persons, has seduced me to print off 
this CJiiaro Oscuro of my Mind. 

And when I have done it, you may reasonably ask 
me of what Importance can the History of my pri- 
vate Life be to the Publick ? To this, indeed, I can 
only make you a ludicrous Answer, which is, That 
the Publick very well knows my Life has not been a 
private one ; that I have been employ'd in their Ser- 
vice ever since many of their Grandfathers were young 
Men ; And tho' I have voluntarily laid down my Post, 
they have a sort of Right to enquire into my Con- 
duct (for which they have so well paid me) and to 
call for the Account of it during my Share of Admi- 
nistration in the State of the Theatre. This Work, 
therefore, which I hope they will not expect a Man 
of hasty Head shou'd confine to any regular Method : 
(For I shall make no scruple of leaving my History 
when I think a Digression may make it lighter for 
my Reader's Digestion.) This Work, I say, shall 
not only contain the various Impressions of my 
Mind, (as in Louis the Fourteenth his Cabinet you 
have seen the growing Medals of his Person from 
Infancy to Old Age,) but shall likewise include with 
them the Theatrical History of my Own Time, from 
my first Appearance on the Stage to my last Exit} 

^ From this expression it appears that Gibber did not con- 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 7 

If then what I shall advance on that Head may 
any ways contribute to the Prosperity or Improve- 
ment of the Stage in Being, the Publick must of con- 
sequence have a Share in its Utility. 

This, Sir, is the best Apology I can make for being 
my own Biographer. Give me leave therefore to 
open the first Scene of my Life from the very Day 
I came into it ; and tho' (considering my Profession) 
I have no reason to be asham'd of my Original ; yet 
I am afraid a plain dry Account of it will scarce ad- 
mit of a better Excuse than what my brother Bays 
makes for Prince Prettyman in the Rehearsal, viz. / 
only do it for fear I should be thought to be no bodys 
Son at all ; ^ for if I have led a worthless Life, the 
Weight of my Pedigree will not add an Ounce to my 
intrinsic Value. But be the Inference what it will, 
the simple Truth is this. 

I was born in London, on the 6M oi November id"] \f 
in Southampton-Street, facing Southampton-House.^ 

template again returning to the stage. He did, however, make a 
few final appearances, his last being to support his own adaptation 
of Shakespeare's "King John," which he called "Papal Tyranny 
in the Reign of King John," and which was produced at Covent 
Garden on 15th February, 1745. 

' " The Rehearsal," act iii. sc. 4. 

2 The christening of Colley Gibber is recorded in the Bap- 
tismal Register of the Ghurch of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. The 
entry reads : — 
" November 1 67 1 Ghristnings 

20. Golly Sonne of Gains Gabriell Sibber and Jane ux" 

^ Mr. Laurence Hutton, in his " Literary Landmarks of Lon- 
don," page 52, says : "Southampton House, afterwards Bedford 
House, taken down in the beginning of the present century, occu- 
pied the north side of Bloomsbury Square. Evelyn speaks of it 



Q THE LIFE OF 

My Father, Cams Gabriel Cibber} was a Native 
of Holstciji, who came into England some time 
before the Restoration of King Charles II. to follow 
his Profession, which was that of a Statuary, &c. 
The Basso Relievo on the Pedestal of the Great 
Column in the City, and the two Figures of the 
Liuiaticks, the Raving and the Melancholy, over the 
Gates oi Bethlehem-Hospital," are no ill Monuments 
of his Fame as an artist. My Mother was the 
Daughter of William Colley, Esq ; of a very ancient 
Family of Glaiston in Rutlandshire, where she was 
born. My Mother's Brother, Edward Colley, Esq ; 
(who gave me my Christian Name) being the last 
Heir Male of it, the Family is now extinct. I shall 
only add, that in Wright's W\s,\.oxy oi Rutlandshire, 
publish'd in 1684, the Colley s are recorded as Sheriffs 

in his Diary, October, 1664, as in course of construction. Another 
and an earlier Southampton House in Holborn, ' a little above 
Holborn Bars,' was removed some twenty years before Gibber's 
birth. He was, therefore, probably born at the upper or north 
end of Southampton Street, facing Bloomsbury Square, where now 
are comparatively modem buildings, and not in Southampton 
Street, Strand, as is generally supposed." 

^ Caius Gabriel Gibber, born at Flensborg in Holstein in 1630 ; 
married, as his second wife, Jane Golley, on 24th November, 1670 ; 
died in 1700. He was, as Golley Gibber states, a sculptor of 
some note. 

* " Where o'er the gates, by his fam'd father's hand, 
Great Gibber's brazen, brainless brothers stand." 

(Final edition of " The Dunciad," i. verses 31-2.) 
Bellchambcrs notes that these figures were removed to the New 
Hospital in St. George's Fields. They are now in South Ken- 
sington Museum. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 9 

and Members of Parliament from the Reign of 
Hemy VII. to the latter End of Charles I., in whose 
Cause chiefly Sir Antony Colley, my Mother's Grand- 
father, sunk his Estate from Three Thousand to 
about Three ¥{uTi.6.r:Qdi per Anmuii} 

In the Year 1682, at little more than Ten Years 
of Age, I was sent to the Free-School of Grantham 
in Lincolnshire, where I staid till I got through it, 
from the lowest Form to the uppermost. And such 
Learning as that School could give me is the most 
I pretend to (which, tho' I have not utterly forgot, I 
cannot say I have much improv'd by Study) but 
even there I remember I was the same inconsistent 
Creature I have been ever since ! always in full 
Spirits, in some small Capacity to do right, but in a 
more frequent Alacrity to do wrong; and conse- 
quently often under a worse Character than I wholly 
deserv'd : A giddy Negligence always possess'd me, 
and so much, that I remember I was once whipp'd 
for my Theme, tho' my Master told me, at the same 

^ "It was found by office taken in the 13th year of H. 8. that 
John Colly deceased, held the Mannourand Advowson of Glaiston 
of Edward Duke of Buckingham, as of his Castle of Okeham by 
knights service." — Wright's " History and Antiquities of the 
County of Rutland," p. 64. 

"In the 26. Cat: i. (1640) Sir Anthony Colly Knight, then 
Lord of this Mannor, joyned with his Son and Heir apparent, 
William Colly Esquire, in a Conveyance of divers parcels of Land 
in Glaiston, together with the Advowson of the Church there, to 
Edivard Andrnvs of Bisbroke in this County, Esquire : Which 
Advowson is since conveyed over to Peterhouse in Cambridge," 
— Ibid. p. 65. 



lO THE LIFE OF 

time, what was good of it was better than any Boy's 
in the Form. And (whatever Shame it may be to 
own it) I have observ'd the same odd Fate has fre- 
quently attended the course of my later Conduct in 
Life. The unskilful openness, or in plain Terms, 
the Indiscretion I have always acted with from my 
Youth, has drawn more ill-will towards me, than 
Men of worse Morals and more Wit might have 
met with. My Ignorance and want of Jealousy of 
Mankind has been so strong, that it is with Reluc- 
tance I even yet believe any Person I am acquain- 
ted with can be capable of Envy, Malice, or Ingrati- 
tude : ^ And to shew you what a Mortification it 
was to me, in my very boyish Days, to find myself 
mistaken, give me leave to tell you a School Story. 

A great Boy, near the Head taller than myself, in 
some wrangle at Play had insulted me ; upon which 
I was fool-hardy enough to give him a Box on the 
Ear ; the Blow was soon return'd with another that 
brought me under him and at his Mercy. Another 
Lad, whom I really lov'd and thought a good-natur'd 
one, cry'd out with some warmth to my Antagonist 
(while I was down) Beat him, beat him soundly ! 
This so amaz'd me that I lost all my Spirits to 

^ Fielding (" Joseph Andrews," chap, iii.), writing of Parson 
Adams, says : " Simplicity was his characteristic : he did, no more 
than Mr. Colley Gibber, apprehend any such passions as malice 
and envy to exist in mankind ; which was indeed less remarkable 
in a country parson, than in a gentleman who has passed his life 
behind the scenes — a place which has been seldom thought the 
school of innocence." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I I 

resist, and burst into Tears ! When the Fray was 
over I took my Friend aside, and ask'd him, How 
he came to be so earnestly against me ? To which, 
with some glouting^ Confusion, he reply'd. Because 
you are always jeering and making a Jest of me to 
every Boy in the School. Many a Mischief have I 
brought upon myself by the same Folly in riper Life. 
Whatever Reason I had to reproach my Companion's 
declaring against me, I had none to wonder at it 
while I was so often hurting him : Thus I deserv'd 
his Enmity by my not having Sense enough to know 
I had hurt him ; and he hated me because he had 
not Sense enough to know that I never intended to 
hurt him. 

As this is the first remarkable Error of my Life I 
can recollect, I cannot pass it by without throwing 
out some further Reflections upon it ; whether flat or 
spirited, new or common, false or true, right or wrong, 
they will be still my own, and consequently like me ; 
I will therefore boldly go on ; for I am only oblig'd 
to give you my own, and not a good Picture, to shew 
as well the Weakness as the Strength of my Under- 
standing. It is not on Avhat I write, but on my 
Reader's Curiosity I relie to be read through : At 
worst, tho' the Impartial may be tir'd, the Ill-natur'd 
(no small number) I know will see the bottom of me. 

What I observ'd then, upon my having unde- 
signedly provok'd my School-Friend into an Enemy, 
is a common Case in Society ; Errors of this kind 

' Glout is an obsolete word signifying " to pout, to look sullen.' 



12 THE LIFE OF 

often sour the Blood of Acquaintance Into an incon- 
ceivable Aversion, where it is little suspected. It is 
not enough to say of your Raillery that you intended 
no offence ; if the Person you offer it to has either a 
wrong Head, or wants a Capacity to make that dis- 
tinction, it may have the same effect as the Intention 
of the grossest Injury : And in reality, if you know 
his Parts are too slow to return it in kind, it is a 
vain and idle Inhumanity, and sometimes draws the 
Aggressor into difficulties not easily got out of: Or 
to give the Case more scope, suppose your Friend 
may have a passive Indulgence for your Mirth, if 
you find him silent at it ; tho' you were as intrepid as 
CcBsar, there can be no excuse for your not leaving 
it off. When you are conscious that your Antagonist 
can give as well as take, then indeed the smarter the 
Hit the more agreeable the Party : A Man of chear- 
ful Sense among Friends will never be grave upon 
an Attack of this kind, but rather thank you that you 
have given him a Right to be even with you : There 
are few Men (tho' they may be Masters of both) that 
on such occasions had not rather shew their Parts 
than their Courage, and the Preference is just ; a 
Bull- Dog may have one, and only a Man can have 
the other. Thus it happens that in the coarse 
Merriment of common People, when the Jest begins 
to swell into earnest ; for want of this Election you 
may observe, he that has least wit generally gives the 
first Blow. Now, as among the Better sort, a readi- 
ness of Wit is not always a Sign of intrinsick Merit ; 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 3 

SO the want of that readiness is no Reproach to a 
Man of plain Sense and Civility, who therefore 
(methinks) should never have these lengths of Liberty 
taken with him. Wit there becomes absurd, if not 
insolent; ill-natur'd I am sure it is, which Imputation 
a generous Spirit will always avoid, for the same 
Reason that a Man of real Honour will never send a 
Challenge to a Cripple. The inward Wounds that 
are given by the inconsiderate Insults of Wit to 
those that want it, are as dangerous as those given 
by Oppression to Inferiors ; as long in healing, and 
perhaps never forgiven. There is besides (and little 
worse than this) a mutual Crossness in Raillery that 
sometimes is more painful to the Hearers that are 
not concern'd in it than to the Persons engaged. I 
have seen a couple of these clumsy Combatants drub 
one another with as little Manners or Mercy as if 
they had two Flails in their Hands ; Children at 
Play with Case-knives could not give you more 
Apprehension of their doing one another a Mischief. 
And yet, when the Contest has been over, the 
Boobys have look'd round them for Approbation, and 
upon being told they were admirably well match'd, 
have sat down (bedawb'd as they were) contented at 
making it a drawn Battle. After all that I have said, 
there is no clearer way of giving Rules for Raillery 
than by Example. 

There are two Persons now living, who tho' very 
different in their manner, are, as far as my Judgment 
reaches, complete Masters of it ; one of a more polite 



14 THE LIFE OF 

and extensive Imagination, the other of a Knowledge 
more closely useful to the Business of Life : The 
one gives you perpetual Pleasure, and seems always 
to be taking it ; the other seems to take none till his 
Business is over, and then gives you as much as if 
Pleasure were his only Business. The one enjoys 
his Fortune, the other thinks it first necessary to 
make it ; though that he will enjoy it then I cannot 
be positive, because when a Man has once pick'd up 
more than he wants, he Is apt to think it a Weakness 
to suppose he has enough. But as I don't remember 
ever to have seen these Gentlemen in the same 
Company, you must give me leave to take them 
separately.^ 

The first of them', then, has a Title, and • no 

matter what ; I am not to speak of the great, but the 
happy part of his Character, and in this one single 
light ; not of his being an illustrious, but a delightful 
Companion. 

In Conversation he is seldom silent but when he 
is attentive, nor ever speaks without exciting the 
Attention of others ; and tho' no Man might with less 
Displeasure to his Hearers engross the Talk of the 
Company, he has a Patience in his Vivacity that 

' Bellchambers suggests that these two persons were the Earl 
of Chesterfield and " Bubb Doddington." As to the former he is 
no doubt correct, but I cannot see a single feature of resemblance 
between the second portrait and Lord Melcombe. " The Laureat" 
says (p. 1 8) that the portraits were "L — d C— d and Mr. E — e" 
[probably Erskine]. Bellchambers seems to have supposed that 
" Bubb " was a nickname. 



i 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 1 5 

chuses to divide it, and rather gives more Freedom 
than he takes ; his sharpest RepHes having a mixture 
of PoHteness that few have the command of; his 
Expression is easy, short, and clear ; a stiff or studied 
Word never comes from him ; it is in a simpHcity of 
Style that he gives the highest Surprize, and his 
Ideas are always adapted to the Capacity and Taste 
of the Person he speaks to : Perhaps you will under- 
stand me better if I give you a particular Instance 
of it. A Person at the University, who from being 
a Man of Wit easily became his Acquaintance there, 
from that Acquaintance found no difficulty in being 
made one of his Chaplains : This Person afterwards 
leading a Life that did no great Honour to his Cloth, 
obliged his Patron to take some gentle notice of it ; 
but as his Patron knew the Patient was squeamish, 
he was induced to sweeten the Medicine to his Taste, 
and therefore with a smile of good humour told him, 
that if to the many Vices he had already, he would 
give himself the trouble to add one more, he did not 
doubt but his Reputation might still be set up again. 
Sir Crape, who could have no Aversion to so pleasant 
a Dose, desiring to know what it might be, was 
answered. Hypocrisy, Doctor, only a little Hypocrisy ! 
This plain Reply can need no Comment ; but ex pede 
Herculem, he is every where proportionable. I think 
I have heard him since say, the Doctor thought 
Hypocrisy so detestable a Sin that he dy'd without 
committing It. In a word, this Gentleman gives 
Spirit to Society the Moment he comes into it, and 



1 6 THE LIFE OF 

whenever he leaves it they who have Business have 
then leisure to go about it. 

Having often had the Honour to be my self the 
But of his Raillery, I must own T have received 
more Pleasure from his lively manner of raising the 
Lauofh aofainst me, than I could have felt from the 
smoothest flattery of a serious Civility. Tho' Wit 
flows from him with as much ease as common Sense 
from another, he is so little elated with the Advantage 
he may have over you, that whenever your good 
Fortune gives it against him, he seems more pleas'd 
with it on your side than his own. The only ad- 
vantage he makes of his Superiority of Rank is, 
that by always waving it himself, his inferior finds he 
is under the greater Obligation not to forget it. 

When the Conduct of social Wit is under such 
Regulations, how delightful must those Coiwivia, 
those Meals of Conversation be, where such a Mem- 
ber presides ; who can with so much ease (as Shake- 
spear phrases it) set the Table in a 7'oar} I am in no 
pain that these imperfect Out-lines will be apply'd 
to the Person I mean, because every one who has 
the Happiness to know him must know how much 
more in this particular Attitude is wanting to be like 
him. 

The other Gentleman, whose bare Interjections of 

Laughter have humour in them, is so far from having 

a Title that he has lost his real name, which some 

Years ago he suffer'd his Friends to railly him out 

' "Set the table on a roar." — " Hamlet," act v. sc. i. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 1 7 

of; in lieu of which they have equipp'd him with one 
they thought had a better sound in good Company. 
He is the first Man of so sociable a Spirit that I 
ever knew capable of quitting the Allurements of 
Wit and Pleasure for a strong Application to Busi- 
ness ; in his Youth (for there was a Time when he 
was young) he set out in all the hey-day Expences 
of a modish Man of Fortune ; but finding himself 
over-weighted with Appetites, he grew restiff, kick'd 
up in the middle of the Course, and turn'd his back 
upon his Frolicks abroad, to think of improving his 
Estate at home : In order to which he clapt Collars 
upon his Coach- Horses, and that their Mettle might 
not run over other People, he ty'd a Plough to their 
Tails, which tho' it might give them a more slovenly 
Air, would enable him to keep them fatter in a foot 
pace, with a whistling Peasant beside them, than in 
a full trot, with a hot-headed Coachman behind them. 
In these unpolite Amusements he has laugh'd like a 
Rake and look'd about him like a Farmer for many 
Years. As his Rank and Station often find him in 
the best Company, his easy Humour, whenever he is 
called to it, can still make himself the Fiddle of it. 

And tho' some say he looks upon the Follies of 
the World like too severe a Philosopher, yet he rather 
chuses to laugh than to grieve at them ; to pass his 
time therefore more easily in it, he often endeavours 
to conceal himself by assuming the Air and Taste 
of a Man in fashion; so that his only Uneasiness 
seems to be, that he cannot quite prevail with his 



1 8 THE LIFE OF 

Friends to think him a worse Manager than he 
really is ; for they carry their Raillery to such a 
height that it sometimes rises to a Charge of down- 
right Avarice against him. Upon which Head it is 
no easy matter to be more merry upon him than he 
will be upon himself. Thus while he sets that In- 
firmity in a pleasant Light, he so disarms your Pre- 
judice, that if he has it not, you can't find in your 
Heart to wish he were without it. Whenever he is 
attack'd where he seems to lie so open, if his Wit 
happens not to be ready for you, he receives you 
with an assenting Laugh, till he has gain'd time 
enough to whet it sharp enough for a Reply, which 
seldom turns out to his disadvantage. If you are 
too strong for him (which may possibly happen from 
his being oblig'd to defend the weak side of the 
Question) his last Resource is to join in the Laugh 
till he has got himself off by an ironical Applause of 
your Superiority. 

If I were capable of Envy, what I have observ'd 
of this Gentleman would certainly incline me to it ; 
for sure to get through the necessary Cares of Life 
with a Train of Pleasures at our Heels in vain calling 
after us, to give a constant Preference to the Business 
of the Day, and yet be able to laugh while we are 
about it, to make even Society the subservient Re- 
ward of it, is a State of Happiness which the gravest 
Precepts of moral Wisdom will not easily teach us 
to exceed. When I speak of Happiness, I go no 
higher than that which is contain'd in the World we 




CAIUS GIBBER 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 9 

now tread upon ; and when I speak of Laughter, I 
don't simply mean that which every Oaf is capable 
of, but that which has its sensible Motive and proper 
Season, which is not more limited than recommended 
by that indulgent Philosophy, 

Cunt ratione insanire.^ 

When I look into my present Self, and afterwards 
cast my Eye round all my Hopes, I don't see anyone 
Pursuit of them that should so reasonably rouze me 
out of a Nod in my Great Chair, as a call to those 
agreeable Parties I have sometimes the Happiness 
to mix with, where I always assert the equal Liberty 
of leaving them, when my Spirits have done their 
best with them. 

Now, Sir, as I have been making my way for 
above Forty Years through a Crowd of Cares, (all 
which, by the Favour of Providence, I have honestly 
got rid of) is it a time of Day for me to leave off 
these Fooleries, and to set up a new Character ? 
Can it be worth my while to waste my Spirits, to 
bake my Blood, with serious Contemplations, and 
perhaps impair my Health, in the fruitless Study of 
advancing myself into the better Opinion of those 
very — very few Wise Men that are as old as I am ? 
No, the Part I have acted in real Life shall be all 
of a piece, 

Servetur ad imum, 

Qzialis ab incepio processerit. Hor.- 

' Ter. Eun. i. i, 18. ^ Ars Poetica, 126. 



20 THE LIFE OF 

I will not go out of my Character by straining to be 
wiser than I can be, or by being more affectedly pen- 
sive than I need be ; whatever I am, Men of Sense will 
know me to be, put on what Disguise I will ; I can 
no more put off my Follies than my Skin ; I have 
often tiy'd, but they stick too close to me ; nor am I 
sure my Friends are displeased with them ; for, be- 
sides that in this Light I afford them frequent matter 
of Mirth, they may possibly be less uneasy at their 
own Foibles when they have so old a Precedent to 
keep them in Countenance : Nay, there are some 
frank enough to confess they envy what they laugh 
at ; and when I have seen others, whose Rank and 
Fortune have laid a sort of Restraint upon their 
Liberty of pleasing their Company by pleasing them- 
selves, I have said softly to myself, Well, there 

is some Advantage in having neither Rank nor 
Fortune ! Not but there are among them a third 
Sort, who have the particular Happiness of unbend- 
ing into the very Wantonness of Good-humour with- 
out depreciating their Dignity : He that is not 
Master of that Freedom, let his Condition be never 
so exalted, must still want something to come up to 
the Happiness of his Inferiors who enjoy it. If 
Socrates cou'd take pleasure in playing at Eve7i or 
Odd with his Children, or Agesilaus divert himself in 
riding the Flobby-horse with them, am 1 oblig'd to 
be as eminent as either of them before I am as 
frolicksome ? If the Emperor Adrian, near his 
death, cou'd play with his very Soul, his Animula^ 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER 2 1 

&c. and regret that it cou'd be no longer companion- 
able ; if Greatness at the same time was not the 
Delight he was so loth to part with, sure then these 
chearful Amusements I am contending for must 
have no inconsiderable share in our Happiness ; he 
that does not chuse to live his own way, suffers 
others to chuse for him. Give me the Joy I always 
took in the End of an old Song, 

My Mind, my Mind is a Kingdom to me ! ^ 

If I can please myself with my own Follies, have 
not I a plentiful Provision for Life } If the World 
thinks me a Trifler, I don't desire to break in upon 
their Wisdom ; let them call me any Fool but an 
Unchearful one ; I live as I write ; while my Way 
amuses me, it's as well as I wish it ; when another 
writes better, I can like him too, tho' he shou'd not 
like me. Not our great Imitator of Horace himself 
can have more Pleasure in writing his Verses than 
I have in reading them, tho' I sometimes find myself 
there (as Sliakespear terms it) dispraisingly ^ spoken 
of :^ If he is a little free with me, I am generally in 

' In William Byrd's collection, entitled " Psalmes, Sonets, & 
songs of sadnes and pietie," 1588, 4to., is the song to which 
Gibber probably refers : — 

" My Minde to me a Kingdome is." 

Mr. Bulien, in his "Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-books" (p. 78), 
quotes it. 

^ " And so many a time, 

When I have spoke of you dispraisingly, 
Hath ta'en your part." — " Othello," act iii. sc. 3. 
' This is Gibber's first allusion to Pope's enmity. It was after 



2 2 THE LIFE OF 

good Company, he is as blunt with my Betters ; so 
that even here I might laugh in my turn. My 
Superiors, perhaps, may be mended by him ; but, for 
my part, I own myself incorrigible : I look upon my 
Follies as the best part of my Fortune, and am more 
concern'd to be a good Husband of Them, than of 
That ; nor do I believe I shall ever be rhim'd out of 
them. And, if I don't mistake, I am supported in 
my way of thinking by Horace himself, who, in excuse 
of a loose Writer, says, 

PrcBtulerim scriptor delirus, inersque videri, 
Duni mea delectent mala me, vel denigue fallant, 
Quam sapere, et 7Hngi ^ 

which, to speak of myself as a loose Philosopher, I 
have thus ventur'd to imitate : 

Me, while my laughing Follies can deceive. 

Blest i7i the dear Delirium let me live, 

Rather tha^i wisely know my Wants and grieve. 

We had once a merry M onarch of our own, who thought 
chearfulness so valuable a Blessing, that he would 
have quitted one of his Kingdoms where he cou'd not 
enjoy it ; where, among many other Conditions they 
had ty'd him to, his sober Subjects wou'd not suffer 
him to laugh on a Sunday ; and tho' this might not 
be the avow'd Cause of his Elopement,^ I am not 

the publication of the "Apology" that Pope's attacks became 
more bitter. 

' Horace, Epis. ii. 2, 126. 

* Charles II. 's flight from his Scottish Presbyterian subjects, at 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 23 

sure, had he had no other, that this alone might not 
have serv'd his turn ; at least, he has my hearty- 
Approbation either way ; for had I been under the 
same Restriction, tho' my staying were to have made 
me his Successor, I shou'd rather have chosen to 
follow him. 

How far his Subjects might be in the right is not 
my Affair to determine ; perhaps they were wiser 
than the Frogs in the Fable, and rather chose to have 
a Log than a Stork for their King ; yet I hope it 
will be no Offence to say that King Log himself 
must have made but a very simple Figure in History. 

The Man who chuses never to laugh, or whose 
becalm'd Passions know no Motion, seems to me 
only in the quiet State of a green Tree ; he vegetates, 
'tis true, but shall we say he lives ? Now, Sir, for 
Amusement. — Reader, take heed ! for I find a strong 
impulse to talk impertinently ; if therefore you are 
not as fond of seeing, as I am of shewing myself in 
all my Lights, you may turn over two Leaves to- 
gether, and leave what follows to those who have 
more Curiosity, and less to do with their Time, than 
you have. — As I was saying then, let us, for Amuse- 
ment, advance this, or any other Prince, to the most 
glorious Throne, mark out his Empire in what Clime 

the end of 1650, to take refuge among his wild Highland sup- 
porters, was caused by the insolent invectives of the rigid Presby- 
terian clergymen, who preached long sermons at him, on his own 
wickedness and that of his father and mother, and made his life 
generally a burden. 



24 THE LIFE OF 

you please, fix him on the highest Pinnacle of un- 
bounded Power ; and in that State let us enquire 
into his degree of Happiness ; make him at once the 
Terror and the Envy of his Neighbours, send his 
Ambition out to War, and gratify it with extended 
Fame and Victories ; bring him in triumph home, 
with great unhappy Captives behind him, through 
the Acclamations of his People, to repossess his 
Realms in Peace. Well, when the Dust has been 
brusht from his Purple, what will he do next ? Why, 
this envy'd Monarch (who we will allow to have a more 
exalted Mind than to be delighted with the triflinof 
Flatteries of a congratulating Circle) will chuse to 
retire, I presume, to enjoy in private the Contempla- 
tion of his Glory ; an Amusement, you will say, that 
well becomes his Station ! But there, in that pleasing 
Rumination, when he has made up his new Account 
of Happiness, how much, pray, will be added to the 
Balance more than as it stood before his last Expedi- 
tion ? From what one Article will the Improvement 
of it appear ? Will it arise from the conscious Pride 
of having done his weaker Enemy an Injury ? Are 
his Eyes so dazzled with false Glory that he thinks 
it a less Crime in him to break into the Palace of his 
Princely Neighbour, because he gave him time to 
defend it, than for a Subject feloniously to plunder 
the House of a private Man ? Or is the Outrage of 
Hunger and Necessity more enormous than the 
Ravage of Ambition ? Let us even suppose the 
wicked Usage of the World as to that Point may 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 25 

keep his Conscience quiet ; still, what Is he to do 
with the Infinite Spoil that his Imperial Rapine has 
brought home ? Is he to sit down and vainly deck 
himself with the Jewels which he has plunder'd from 
the Crown of another, whom Self-defence had com- 
pell'd to oppose him ? No, let us not debase his Glory 
into so low a Weakness. What Appetite, then, are 
these shining Treasures food for ? Is their vast 
Value In seeing his vulgar Subjects stare at them, 
wise Men smile at them, or his Children play with 
them ? Or can the new Extent of his Dominions 
add a Cubit to his Happiness ? Was not his Empire 
wide enough before to do good in ? And can It add 
to his Delight that now no Monarch has such room 
to do mischief In? But farther; if even the great 
Augustus, to whose Reign such Praises are given, 
cou'd not enjoy his Days of Peace free from the 
Terrors of repeated Conspiracies, which lost him 
more Quiet to suppress than his Ambition cost him 
to provoke them : What human Eminence Is secure ? 
In what private Cabinet then must this wondrous 
Monarch lock up his Happiness that common Eyes 
are never to behold It ? Is It, like his Person, a 
Prisoner to Its own Superiority ? Or does he at last 
poorly place it In the Triumph of his Injurious De- 
vastations ? One Moment's Search Into himself will 
plainly shew him that real and reasonable Happiness 
can have no Existence without Innocence and 
Liberty. What a Mockery is Greatness without 
them ? How lonesome must be the Life of that 



26 THE LIFE OF 

Monarch who, while he governs only by being 
fear'd, is restrain'd from letting down his Grandeur 
sometimes to forget himself and to humanize him 
into the Benevolence and Joy of Society ? To 
throw off his cumbersome Robe of Majesty, to be a 
Man without disguise, to have a sensible Taste of 
Life in its Simplicity, till he confess from the sweet 
Experience that dulce est desipere m loco ^ was no 
Fool's Philosophy. Or if the gawdy Charms of Pre- 
eminence are so strong that they leave him no Sense 
of a less pompous, tho' a more rational Enjoyment, 
none sure can envy him but those who are the 
Dupes of an equally fantastick Ambition. 

My Imagination is quite heated and fatigued in 
dressing up this Phantome of Felicity ; but I hope 
it has not made me so far misunderstood, as not to 
have allow'd that in all the Dispensations of Provi- 
dence the Exercise of a great and virtuous Mind is 
the most elevated State of Happiness : No, Sir, I 
am not for setting up Gaiety against Wisdom ; nor 
for preferring the Man of Pleasure to the Philosopher; 
but for shewing that the Wisest or greatest Man is 
very near an unhappy Man, if the unbending Amuse- 
ments I am contending for are not sometimes ad- 
mitted to relieve him. 

How far I may have over- rated these Amuse- 
ments let graver Casuists decide ; whether they 
affirm or reject what I have asserted hurts not my 

' Hor. Od. iv. 12, 28. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 27 

Purpose ; which is not to give Laws to others ; but 
to shew by what Laws I govern myself: If I am 
misguided, 'tis Nature's Fault, and I follow her from 
this Persuasion ; That as Nature has distinguish'd 
our Species from the mute Creation by our Risibility, 
her Design must have been by that Faculty as evi- 
dently to raise our Happiness, as by our Os Sublime^ 
(our erected Faces) to lift the Dignity of our Form 
above them. 

Notwithstanding all I have said, I am afraid there 
is an absolute Power in what is simply call'd our 
Constitution that will never admit of other Rules 
for Happiness than her own ; from which (be we 
never so wise or weak) without Divine Assistance 
we only can receive it ; So that all this my Parade 
and Grimace of Philosophy has been only making a 
mighty Merit of following my own Inclination. A 
very natural Vanity ! Though it is some sort of 
Satisfaction to know it does not impose upon me. 
Vanity again ! However, think It what you will 
that has drawn me into this copious Digression, 'tis 
now high time to drop it : I shall therefore in my 
next Chapter return to my School, from whence I 
fear I have too lone been Truant. 



& 



' "Os homini sublime dedit." — Ovid, Met. i. 85. 




CHAPTER II. 

He tliat writes of himself not easily tir'd. Boys may give Men 
Lessons. The Author's Preferment at School attended 7vith Mis- 
fortwies. The Danger of Merit among Equals. Of Satyrists 
and Backbiters. What effect they have had upon the Author. 
Stanzas publish' d by himself against himself. 

IT often makes me smile to think how contentedly 
I have set myself down to write my own Life ; 
nay, and with less Concern for what may be said of 
it than I should feel were I to do the same for a 
deceased Acquaintance. This you will easily account 
for when you consider that nothing gives a Coxcomb 
more delight than when you suffer him to talk of 
himself; which sweet Liberty I here enjoy for a 



THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 29 

whole Volume together ! A Privilege which neither 
cou'd be allow'd me, nor wou'd become me to take, 
in the Company I am generally admitted to ; ^ but 
here, when I have all the Talk to myself, and have 
no body to interrupt or contradict me, sure, to say 
whatever I have a mind other People shou'd know 
of me is a Pleasure which none but Authors as vain 
as myself can conceive. But to my History. 

However little worth notice the Life of a School- 
boy may be supposed to contain, yet, as the Passions 
of Men and Children have much the same Motives 
and differ very little in their Effects, unless where 
the elder Experience may be able to conceal them : 
As therefore what arises from the Boy may possibly 
be a Lesson to the Man, I shall venture to relate a 
Fact or two that happen'd while I was still at 
School. 

In February, 1684-5, died King Charles \\. who 
being the only King I had ever seen, I remember 
(young as I was) his Death made a strong Im- 
pression upon me, as it drew Tears from the Eyes of 
Multitudes, who looked no further into him than I 

^ Gibber is pardonably vain throughout at the society he 
moved in. His greatest social distinction was his election as 
a member of White's. His admission to such society was of 
course the subject of lampoons, such as the following : — 

" The Buffoon, An Epigram. 
Don't boast, prithee Gibber, so much of thy State, 
That like Pope you are blest with the smiles of the Great ; 
With both they Gonverse, but for different Ends, 
And 'tis easy to know their Buffoons from their Friends." 



30 THE LIFE OF 

did : But it was, then, a sort of School- Doctrine to 
regard our Monarch as a Deity ; as in the former 
Reign it was to insist he was accountable to this 
World as well as to that above him. But what, 
perhaps, gave King Charles II. this peculiar Posses- 
sion of so many Hearts, was his affable and easy 
manner in conversing ; which is a Quality that goes 
farther with the greater Part of Mankind than many 
higher Virtues, which, in a Prince, might more 
immediately regard the publick Prosperity. Even 
his indolent Amusement of playing with his Dogs 
and feeding his Ducks in St. James s Park, (which I 
have seen him do) made the common People adore 
him, and consequently overlook in him what, in a 
Prince of a different Temper, they might have been 
out of humour at. 

I cannot help remembring one more Particular in 
those Times, tho' it be quite foreign to what Avill 
follow. I was carry'd by my Father to the Chapel 
in Whitehall ; where I saw the King and his royal 
Brother the then Duke of York, with him in the 
Closet, and present during the whole Divine Service. 
Such Dispensation, it seems, for his Interest, had 
that unhappy Prince from his real Religion, to assist 
at another to which his Heart was so utterly averse. 

1 now proceed to the Facts I promis'd to 

speak of. 

King Charles his Death was judg'd by our School- 
master a proper Subject to lead the Form I was in 
into a higher kind of Exercise ; he therefore enjoin'd 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 3! 

US severally to make his Funeral Oration : This 
sort of Task, so entirely new to us all, the Boys re- 
ceiv'd with Astonishment as a Work above their 
Capacity ; and tho' the Master persisted in his Com- 
mand, they one and all, except myself, resolved to 
decline it. But I, Sir, who was ever giddily forward 
and thoughtless of Consequences, set myself roundly 
to work, and got through it as well as I could. I 
remember to this Hour that single Topick of his 
Affability (which made me mention it before) was 
the chief Motive that warm'd me into the Under- 
taking; and to shew how very childish a Notion I 
had of his Character at that time, I raised his 
Humanity, and Love of those who serv'd him, to 
such Height, that I imputed his Death to the Shock 
he receiv'd from the Lord Arlijig-toii s beina at the 
point of Death about a Week before him.^ This 
Oration, such as it was, I produc'd the next Mornino- : 
All the other Boys pleaded their Inability, which the 
Master taking rather as a mark of their Modesty 
than their Idleness, only seem'd to punish by settino- 
me at the Head of the Form : A Preferment dearly 
bought ! Much happier had I been to have sunk 
my Performance in the general Modesty of de- 
clining it. A most uncomfortable Life I led among 
them for many a Day after ! I was so jeer'd, laugh'd 
at, and hated as a pragmatical Bastard (School-boys 
Language) who had betray'd the whole Form, that 

' Arlington did not, however, die till the 28th July, 1685, 
surviving Charles II. by nearly six months. 



32 THE LIFE OF 

scarce any of 'em wou'd keep me company ; and tho' 
it so far advanc'd me into the Master's Favour that 
he wou'd often take me from the School to grive me 
an Airing with him on Horseback, while they were 
left to their Lessons ; you may be sure such envy'd 
Happiness did not encrease their Good-will to me : 
Notwithstanding which my Stupidity cou'd take no 
warning from their Treatment. An Accident of the 
same nature happen'd soon after, that might have 
frighten'd a Boy of a meek Spirit from attempting 
any thing above the lowest Capacity. On the 23d 
of April following, being the Coronation- Day of the 
new King, the School petition'd the Master for leave 
to play ; to which he agreed, provided any of the 
Boys would produce an English Ode upon that 

Occasion. The very Word, Ode, I know makes 

you smile already ; and so it does me ; not only 
because it still makes so many poor Devils turn Wits 
upon it, but from a more agreeable Motive; from a 
Reflection of how little I then thought that, half a 
Century afterwards, I shou'd be call'd upon twice a 
year, by my Post,^ to make the same kind of Obla- 
tions to an unexceptionable Prince, the serene Happi- 
ness of whose Reign my halting Rhimes are still so 
unequal to This, I own, is Vanity without Dis- 
guise ; but Hcec olhn meminisse jiivat :^ The remem- 
brance of the miserable prospect we had then before 

^ Gibber was appointed Poet-Laureate on the death of Eusden. 
His appointment was dated 3rd December, 1730. 
^ " Forsan et haecolim meminisse juvabit." — Virg. ^neid, i. 207. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 7,3 

US, and have since escaped by a Revolution, is now 
a Pleasure which, without that Remembrance, I 
could not so heartily have enjoy'd.^ The Ode I was 
speaking of fell to my Lot, which in about half an 
Hour I produc'd. I cannot say it was much above 
the merry Style of Sing ! Sing the Day, and sing the 
Song, in the Farce : Yet bad as it was, it serv'd to 
get the School a Play-day, and to make me not a 
little vain upon it ; which last Effect so disgusted 
my Play-fellows that they left me out of the Party I 
had most a mind to be of in that Day's Recreation. 
But their Ingratitude serv'd only to increase my 
Vanity ; for I consider'd them as so many beaten 
Tits that had just had the Mortification of seeing 
my Hack of a Pegasus come in before them. This 
low Passion is so rooted in our Nature that some- 
times riper Heads cannot govern it. I have met 
with much the same silly sort of Coldness, even from 
my Contemporaries of the Theatre, from having the 
superfluous Capacity of writing myself the Characters 
I have acted. 

Here, perhaps, I may again seem to be vain ; but 
if all these Facts are true (as true they are) how can 
I help it ? Why am I oblig'd to conceal them } 
The Merit of the best of them is not so extraordinary 
as to have warn'd me to be nice upon it ; and the 
Praise due to them is so small a Fish, it was scarce 
worth while to throw my Line into the Water for it. 

^ As Laureate, and as author of "The Nonjuror," Gibber is 
bound to be extremely loyal to the Protestant dynasty. 



34 THE LIFE OF 

If I confess my Vanity while a Boy, can it be Vanity, 
when a Man, to remember it ? And if I have a 
tolerable Feature, will not that as much belong to 
my Picture as an Imperfection ? In a word, from 
what I have mentioned, I wou'd observe only this ; 
That when we are conscious of the least comparative 
Merit in ourselves, we shou'd take as much care to 
conceal the Value we set upon it, as if it were a real 
Defect : To be elated or vain upon it is shewing 
your Money before People in want ; ten to one but 
some who may think you to have too much may 
borrow, or pick your Pocket before you get home. 
He who assumes Praise to himself, the World will 
think overpays himself. Even the Suspicion of 
being vain ought as much to be dreaded as the Guilt 
itself. CcBsar was of the same Opinion in regard to 
his Wife's Chastity. Praise, tho' it may be our due, 
is not like a Bank-Bill, to be paid upon Demand ; to 
be valuable it must be voluntary. When we are 
dun'd for it, we have a Right and Privilege to refuse 
it. If Compulsion insists upon it, it can only be paid 
as Persecution in Points of Faith is, in a counterfeit 
Coin : And who ever believ'd Occasional Con- 
formity to be sincere ? Nero, the most vain Cox- 
comb of a Tyrant that ever breath'd, cou'd not raise 
an unfeigned Applause of his Harp by military 
Execution ; even where Praise is deserv'd. Ill-nature 
and Self-conceit (Passions that poll a majority of 
Mankind) will with less reluctance part with their 
Mony than their Approbation. Men of the greatest 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 35 

Merit are forced to stay 'till they die before the 
World will fairly make up their Account : Then in- 
deed you have a Chance for your full Due, because 
it is less grudg'd when you are incapable of enjoying 
it: Then perhaps even Malice shall heap Praises 
upon your Memory ; tho' not for your sake, but that 
your surviving Competitors may suffer by a Com- 
parison.' 'Tis from the same Principle that Satyr 
shall have a thousand Readers where Panegyric has 
one. When I therefore find my Name at length in 
the Satyrical Works of our most celebrated living 
Author, I never look upon those Lines as Malice 
meant to me, (for he knows I never provok'd it) but 
Profit to himself : One of his Points must be, to have 
many Readers : He considers that my Face and 
Name are more known than those of many thousands 
of more consequence in the Kingdom : That there- 
fore, right or wrong, a Lick at the Lattreat'^ will 

^ Curiously enough, Gibber's praise of his deceased companion- 
actors has been attributed to something of this motive. 

^ Bellchambers prints these words thus: "Lick at theLaureat," 
as if Gibber had referred to the title of a book ; and notes : " This 
is the title of a pamphlet in which some of Mr. Gibber's peculi- 
arities have been severely handled." But I doubt this, for there 
is nothing in Gibber's arrangement of the words to denote that 
they represent the title of a book ; and, besides, I know no work 
with such a title published before 1740. Bellchambers, in a note 
on page 1 14, represents that he quotes from " Lick at the Laureat, 
1730;" but I find the quotation he gives in "The Laureat," 1740 
(p. 31), almost verbatim. As it stands in the latter there is no hint 
that it is quoted from a previous work, nor, indeed, do the terms 
of it permit of such an interpretation. I can, therefore, only 



36 THE LIFE OF 

always be a sure Bait, ad captandum vtilgus, to catch 
him Httle Readers : And that to gratify the Un- 
learned, by now and then interspersing those merry 
Sacrifices of an old Acquaintance to their Taste, is a 
piece of quite right Poetical Craft.^ 

But as a little bad Poetry is the greatest Crime 
he lays to my charge, I am willing to subscribe to his 
opinion of it? That this sort of Wit is one of the 

suppose that Bellchambers is wrong in attributing the sentence to 

a work called " A Lick at the Laureat." 

' The principal allusions to Gibber which, up to the time of the 

publication of the " Apology," Pope had made, were in the 

"Dunciad":— 

" How, with less reading than makes felons 'scape, 
Less human genius than God gives an ape. 
Small thanks to France and none to Rome or Greece, 
A past, vamp'd, future, old, reviv'd, new piece, 
'Twixt Plautus, Fletcher, Congreve, and Gorneille, 
Can make a Gibber, Johnson, or Ozell." 

Second edition, Book i. 235-240. 

" Beneath his reign, shall Eusden wear the bays, 
Gibber preside, Lord-Ghancellor of Plays." 

Second edition, Book iii. 319, 320. 

In the " Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot " there were one or two 
passing allusions to Gibber, one of them being the line : — 

" And has not Colley still his Lord and whore ? " 
for which Gibber retaliated in his "Letter" of 1742. 

In the "First Epistle of the Second Book of Horace" (1737), 
Gibber is scurvily treated. In it occur the lines : — 

"And idle Gibber, how he breaks the laws, 
To make poor Pinkey eat with vast applause ! " 

* Gibber's Odes were a fruitful subject of banter. Fielding in 
" Pasquin," act ii. sc. i, has the following passage : — 

" 2nd Voter. My Lord, I should like a Place at Gourt too ; I 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 2>7 

easiest ways too of pleasing the generality of 
Readers, is evident from the comfortable subsistence 
which our weekly Retailers of Politicks have been 
known to pick u|d, merely by making bold with a 
Government that had unfortunately neglected to find 
their Genius a better Employment. 

Hence too arises all that flat Poverty of Censure 
and Invective that so often has a Run in our pub- 
lick Papers upon the Success of a new Author ; 
when, God knows, there is seldom above one Writer 
among hundreds in Being at the same time whose 
Satyr a Man of common Sense ought to be mov'd at. 
When a Master in the Art is angry, then indeed we 
ought to be alarm'd ! How terrible a Weapon is 
Satyr in the Hand of a great Genius ? Yet even 

don't much care what it is, provided I wear fine Cloaths, and have 
something to do in the Kitchen, or the Cellar ; I own I should 
like the Cellar, for I am a divilish Lover of Sack. 

Lord Place. Sack, say you ? Odso, you shall be Poet-Laureat. 

2nd Voter. Poet ! no, my Lord, I am no Poet, I can't make 
verses. 

Lord Place. No Matter for that — you'll be able to make Odes. 

2nd Voter. Odes, my Lord! what are those? 

Lord Place. Faith, Sir, I can't tell well what they are ; but I 
know you may be quaHfied for the Place without being a Poet." 

Boswell (" Life of Johnson," i. 402) reports that Johnson said, 
" His [Cibber's] friends give out that he Intendedhis birth-day Odes 
should be bad : but that was not the case. Sir; for he kept them 
many months by him, and a few years before he died he shewed 
me one of them, with great solicitude to render it as perfect as 
might be." 

In "The Egotist" (p. 63) Cibber is made to say: "As bad 

Verses are the Devil, and good ones I can't get up to " 

IJ 



38 THE LIFE OF 

there, how liable is Prejudice to misuse it ? How- 
far, when general, it may reform our Morals, or what 
Cruelties it may inflict by being angrily particular,^ 
is perhaps above my reach to determine. I shall 
therefore only beg leave to interpose what I feel for 
others whom it may personally have fallen upon. 
When I read those mortifying Lines of our most 
eminent Author, in his Character oi Attiais^ {Atti- 
cus, w4iose Genius in Verse and whose Morality in 
Prose has been so justly admir'd) though I am 
charm'd with the Poetry, my Imagination is hurt at 
the Severity of it ; and tho' I allow the Satyrist to 
have had personal Provocation, yet, methinks, for 
that very Reason he ought not to have troubled the 
Publick with it : For, as it is observed in the 242d 
Tatler, "In all Terms of Reproof, when the Sen- 
" tence appears to arise from Personal Hatred or 
" Passion, it is not then made the Cause of Man- 
" kind, but a Misunderstanding between two Per- 
" sons." But if such kind of Satyr has its incon- 
testable Greatness ; if its exemplary Brightness may 
not mislead inferior Wits into a barbarous Imitation 
of its Severity, then I have only admir'd the Verses, 
and expos'd myself by bringing them under so scru- 
pulous a Reflexion : But the Pain which the Acri- 
mony of those Verses gave me is, in some measure, 

^ "Champion," 29th April, 1740: "When he says {FoL 23) 
Satire is angrily particular, every Dunce of a Reader knows that 
he means angry with a particular Person." 

^ Gibber's allusion to Pope's treatment of Addison is a fair hit. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 39 

allay 'd in finding that this inimitable Writer, as he 
advances in Years, has since had Candour enough 
to celebrate the same Person for his visible Merit. 
Happy Genius! whose Verse, like the Eye of 
Beauty, can heal the deepest Wounds with the least 
Glance of Favour. 

Since I am got so far into this Subject, you must 
give me leave to go thro' all I have a mind to 
say upon it ; because I am not sure that in a more 
proper Place my Memory may be so full of it. I 
cannot find, therefore, from what Reason Satyr is 
allow'd more Licence than Comedy, or why either of 
them (to be admir'd) ought not to be limited by 
Decency and Justice. Let Juvenal and Aristo- 
phanes have taken what Liberties they please, if the 
Learned have nothing more than their Antiquity to 
justify their laying about them at that enormous 
rate, I shall wish they had a better excuse for them ! 
The Personal Ridicule and Scurrility thrown upon 
Socrates, which Plutarch too condemns ; and the 
Boldness of Juvenal, in writing real Names over 
guilty Characters, I cannot think are to be pleaded in 
right of our modern Liberties of the same kind. Facit 
indignatio version ^ may be a very spirited Expres- 
sion, and seems to give a Reader hopes of a lively 
Entertainment : But I am afraid Reproof is in un- 
equal Hands when Anger is its Executioner ; and 
tho' an outrageous Invective may carry some Truth 
in it, yet it will never have that natural, easy Credit 
^ Juvenal, i. 79. 



40 THE LIFE OF 

with US which we give to the laughing Ironies of a 
cool Head. The Satyr that can smile circum prce- 
cordia hidit, and seldom fails to bring the Reader 
quite over to his Side whenever Ridicule and folly 
are at variance. But when a Person satyriz'd is us'd 
with the extreamest Rigour, he may sometimes meet 
with Compassion instead of Contempt, and throw 
back the Odium that was designed for him, upon 
the Author. When I would therefore disarm the 
Satyrist of this Indignation, I mean little more than 
that I would take from him all private or personal 
Prejudice, and wou'd still leave him as much general 
Vice to scourge as he pleases, and that with as much 
Fire and Spirit as Art and Nature demand to enliven 
his Work and keep his Reader awake. 

Against all this it may be objected, That these are 
Laws which none but phlegmatick Writers will ob- 
serve, and only Men of Eminence should give. I 
grant it, and therefore only submit them to Writers 
of better Judgment. I pretend not to restrain others 
from chusing what I don't like ; they are welcome (if 
they please too) to think I offer these Rules more from 
an Incapacity to break them than from a moral Hu- 
manity. Let it be so ! still, That will not weaken the 
strength of what I have asserted, if my Assertion be 
true. And though I allow that Provocation is not 
apt to weigh out its Resentments by Drachms and 
Scruples, I shall still think that no publick Revenge 
can be honourable where it is not limited by Jus- 
tice ; and if Honour is insatiable in its Revenue it 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 4 1 

loses what it contends for and sinks itself, if not into 
Cruelty, at least into Vain-glory. 

This so singular Concern which I have shewn for 
others may naturally lead you to ask me what I feel 
for myself when I am unfavourably treated by the 
elaborate Authors of our daily Papers.^ Shall I be 
sincere ? and own my frailty ? Its usual Effect 
is to make me vain ! For I consider if I were 
quite good for nothing these Pidlers in Wit 
would not be concern'd to take me to pieces, or 
(not to be quite so vain) when they moderately 
charge me with only Ignorance or Dulness, I see 
nothine in That which an honest Man need be 
asham'd of:^ There is many a good Soul who from 
those sweet Slumbers of the Brain are never 
awaken'd by the least harmful Thought ; and I am 

^ Davies {"Dram. Misc.," iii. 511) says: "If we except the 
remarks on plays and players by the authors of the Tatler and 
Spectator, the theatrical observations in those days were coarse 
and illiberal, when compared to what we read in our present daily 
and other periodical papers." 

^ '■'■Frankly. Is it not commendable in a Man of Parts, to be 
warmly concerned for his Reputation ? 

Author \_Cibber'\. In what regards his Honesty or Honour, I 
will make you some Allowances : But for the Reputation of his 
Parts, not one Tittle ! " — " The Egotist : or, Colley upon Gibber," 

p. 13- 

Bellchambers notes here: "When Gibber was charged with 
moral offences of a deeper dye, he thought himself at liberty, I 
presume, to relinquish his indifference, and bring the libeller to 
account. On a future page will be found the public advertise- 
ment in which he offered a reward of ten pounds for the detection 
of Dennis." 



42 THE LIFE OF 

sometimes tempted to think those Retailers of Wit 
may be of the same Class ; that what they write pro- 
ceeds not from Malice, but Industry; and that I 
ought no more to reproach them than I would a 
Lawyer that pleads against me for his Fee ; that 
their Detraction, like Dung thrown upon a Meadow, 
tho' it may seem at first to deform the Prospect, in a 
little time it will disappear of itself and leave an in- 
voluntary Crop of Praise behind it. 

When they confine themselves to a sober Criticism 
upon what I write ; if their Censure is just, what 
answer can I make to it ? If it is unjust, why should 
I suppose that a sensible Reader will not see it, as 
well as myself? Or, admit I were able to expose 
them by a laughing Reply, will not that Reply beget 
a Rejoinder ? And though they might be Gainers 
by having the worst on't in a Paper War, that is no 
Temptation for me to come into it. Or (to make 
both sides less considerable) would not my bearing 
Ill-language from a Chimney-sweeper do me less 
harm than it would be to box with him, tho' I were 
sure to beat him ? Nor indeed is the little Reputa- 
tion I have as an Author worth the trouble of a De- 
fence. Then, as no Criticism can possibly make me 
worse than I really am ; so nothing I can say of my- 
self can possibly make me better : When therefore 
a determined Critick comes arm'd with Wit and Out- 
rage to take from me that small Pittance I have, I 
wou'd no more dispute with him than I wou'd resist 
a Gentleman of the Road to save a little Pocket- 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 43 

Money. ^ Men that are in want themselves seldom 
make a Conscience of taking it from others. Who- 
ever thinks I have too much is welcome to what 
share of it he pleases : Nay, to make him more mer- 
ciful (as I partly guess the worst he can say of what 
I now write) I will prevent even the Imputation of 
his doing me Injustice, and honestly say it myself, 
viz. That of all the Assurances I was ever guilty of, 
this of writing my own Life is the most hardy. I 

beg his Pardon ! Impudent is what I should 

have said ! That through every Page there runs a 
Vein of Vanity and Impertinence which no French 
Ensigns ineinoii'es ever came up to ; but, as this is a 
common Error, I presume the Terms of Doating 
Trijler, Old Fool, or Conceited Coxcomb will carry 
Contempt enough for an impartial Censor to bestow 
on me ; that my style is unequal, pert, and frothy, 
patch'd and party-colour'd like the Coat of an Harle- 
quin ; low and pompous, cramm'd with Epithets, 
strew'd with Scraps of second-hand Latin from com- 
mon Quotations ; frequently aiming at Wit, without 
ever hitting the Mark ; a mere Ragoust toss'd up 
from the offals of other authors : My Subject below 
all Pens but my own, which, whenever I keep to, is 
flatly daub'd by one eternal Egotism : That I want 

^ " Frankly. It will be always natural for Authors to defend their 
Works. 

Author \^Ciliber\ And would it not be as well, if their Works 
defended themselves? " — "The Egotist : or, Colley upon Gibber," 
P- 15- 



44 THE LIFE OF 

nothing but Wit to be as accomplish'd a Coxcomb 
here as ever I attempted to expose on the Theatre : 
Nay, that this very Confession is no more a Sign of 
my Modesty than it is a Proof of my Judgment, 

that, in short, you may roundly tell me, that 

Cmna (or Cibber) vult videri Pauper^ et est Patiper. 

When humble Cinna cries, I'm poor and low, 
You may believe him he is really so. 

Well, Sir Critick ! and what of all this ? Now I 
have laid myself at your Feet, what will you do with 
me ? Expose me ? Why, dear Sir, does not every 
Man that writes expose himself? Can you make 
me more ridiculous than Nature has made me ? You 
cou'd not sure suppose that I would lose the Plea- 
sure of Writing because you might possibly judge 
me a Blockhead, or perhaps might pleasantly tell 
other People they ought to think me so too. Will 
not they judge as well from what / say as what You 
say ? If then you attack me merely to divert your- 
self, your Excuse for writing will be no better than 
mine. But perhaps you may want Bread : If that 
be the Case, even go to Dinner, i' God's name ! ^ 

If our best Authors, when teiz'd by these Triflers, 
have not been Masters of this Indifference, I should 
not wonder if it were disbeliev'd in me ; but when it 
is consider'd that I have allow'd my never having 

1 In his " Letter to Pope," 1 742, p. 7, Cibber says : " After near 
twenty years having been hbell'd by our Daily-paper Scriblers, I 
never uas so hurt, as to give them one single Answer." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 45 

been disturb'd into a Reply has proceeded as much 
from Vanity as from Philosophy,^ the Matter then 
may not seem so incredible : And tho' I confess the 
complete Revenge of making them Immortal Dunces 
in Immortal Verse might be glorious; yet, if you 
will call it Insensibility in me never to have winc'd 
at them, even that Insensibility has its happiness, and 
what could Glory give me more ? ^ For my part, I 
have always had the comfort to think, whenever they 
design'd me a Disfavour, it generally flew back into 
their own Faces, as it happens to Children when they 
squirt at their Play-fellows against the Wind. If a 
Scribbler cannot be easy because he fancies I have 
too good an Opinion of my own Productions, let him 
write on and mortify ; I owe him not the Charity to 
be out of temper myself merely to keep him quiet 
or give him Joy : Nor, in reality, can I see why any 
thing misrepresented, tho' believ'd of me by Persons 
to whom I am unknown, ought to give me any more 
Concern than what may be thought of me in Lap- 
land : 'Tis with those with whom I am to liveoxAy, 
where my Character can affect me ; and I will ven- 

^'■^ Frankly. I am afraid you will discover yourself; and your 
Philosophical Air will come out at last meer Vanity in Masquerade. 

Author \_Cibber]. O ! if there be Vanity in keeping one's Tem- 
per; with all my Heart." — "The Egotist: or, Colley upon 
Gibber," p. 13. 

2 In his "Letter to Pope," 1742, p. 9, Gibber says: " I would 
not have even your merited Fame in Poetry, if it were to be 
attended with half the fretful Solicitude you seem to have lain 
under to maintain it." 



46 THE LIFE OF 

ture to say, he must find out a new way of Writing 
that will make me pass my Time there less agreeably. 

You see, Sir, how hard it is for a Man that is 
talking of himself to know when to give over ; but if 
you are tired, lay me aside till you have a fresh Ap- 
petite; if not, I'll tell you a Story. 

In the Year 1730 there were many Authors 
whose Merit wanted nothing^ but Interest to recom- 
mend them to the vacant Laurel, and who took it ill 
to see it at last conferred upon a Comedian ; inso- 
much, that they were resolved at least to shew 
specimens of their superior Pretensions, and accord- 
ingly enliven'd the publick Papers with ingenious 
Epigrams and satyrical Flirts at the unworthy Suc- 
cessor : ^ These Papers my Friends with a wicked 
Smile would often put into my Hands and desire 
me to read them fairly in Company : This was a 
Challenge which I never declin'd, and, to do my 
doughty Antagonists Justice, I always read them 

^ The best epigram is that which Gibber ("Letter," 1742, p. 
39) attributes to Pope : — 

" In merry Old England, it once was a Rule, 

The King had his Poet, and also his Fool. 

But now we're so frugal, I'd have you to know it, 

That Gibber can serve both for Fool and for Poet." 
Dr. Johnson also wrote an epigram, of which he seems to have 
been somewhat proud : — 

" Augustus still survives in Maro's strain, 

And Spenser's verse prolongs Eliza's reign ; 

Great George's acts let tuneful Gibber sins 



For Nature form'd the Poet for the Kinji." 



Boswell, i. 149. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 47 

with as much impartial Spirit as if I had writ them 
myself. While I was thus beset on all sides, there 
happen'd to step forth a poetical Knight-Errant to 
my Assistance, who was hardy enough to publish 
some compassionate Stanzas in my Favour. These, 
you may be sure, the Raillery of my Friends could 
do no less than say I had written to myself. To 
deny it I knew would but have confirmed their pre- 
tended Suspicion : I therefore told them, since it 
gave them such Joy to believe them my own, I 
would do my best to make the whole Town think 
so too. As the Oddness of this Reply was I knew 
what would not be easily comprehended, I desired 
them to have a Days patience, and I would print an 
Explanation to it : To conclude, in two Days after I 
sent this Letter, with some doggerel Rhimes at the 
Bottom, 

To the Author of the Whitehall Evening-Post. 

SIR, 
'T^HE Verses to the Laiircat in yours of Saturday 
last have occasiorid the followmg Reply, which I 

In " Certain Epigrams, in Laud and Praise of the Gentlemen 
of the Dunciad," p. 8, is : — 

Epigram XVI. 
A Question by Anonymus. 
" Tell, if you can, which did the worse, 

Caligula, or Gr — ii's [Grafton's] Gr — ce ? 
That made a Consul of a Horse, 
And this a Laureate of an AssT 
In "The Egotist: or, Colley upon Gibber," p. 49, Gibber is 



48 THE LIFE OF 

hope yotCll give a Place in your next, to shew that we 
can be quick as well as smart iipon a proper Occasion : 
And, as I think it the lowest Afark of a Scoundrel to 
make bold with any Mails Character in Print with- 
out subscribing the true Name of the Author ; I there- 
fore desire, if the Laureat is concern d enough to ask 
the Question, that you will tell hiin my Name and 
where I live ; till theit, I beg leave to be known by no 

other than that of 

Your Servant, 
Monday, Jan. II, 1730. FraNCIS FaIRPLAY. 

These were the Verses.^ 

I. 

Ah, hah ! Sir Coll, is that thy Way, 
Thy own dull Praise to write ? 

And woiid' st thou, stand so sure a Layf 
No, that's too stale a Bite. 

II. 

Nature and A rt in thee combine. 

Thy Talents here excel : 
A II shining Brass thou dost outshine. 

To play the Cheat so well. 

III. 
Who sees thee in lago's Part, 
But thinks thee such a Rogue f 

made to say : " An Ode is a Butt, that a whole Quiver of Wit is 
let fly at every Year ! " 

^ " The Laureat " says : " The Things he calls Verses, carry the 
most evident Marks of their Parent Col/ey." — p. 24. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 49 

And is not glad, with all his Heart, 

To hang so sad a Dog f 

IV. 

When Bays thou play' st, Thyself thou art ; 

For that by N attire fit, 
No Blockhead better suits tJie Part, 

Than such a Coxcoinb Wit, 

V. 

In Wronghead too, thy Brains we see, 

Who might do well at Plough ; 
As fit for Parliament zvas he, 

As for the Laurel, Thozi. 

VI. 

Bring thy protected Verse from Court, 

And try it on the Stage ; 
There it will make much better Sport, 

And set the Town in Rage. 

VII. 

There Beaux and Wits and Cits and Smarts, 

Where Hissing's not tmcivil, 
Will shew their Parts to thy Deserts, 

And send it to the Devil. 

VIII. 
But, ah ! in vain Against Thee we write, 

In vain thy Verse we maul ! 
Our sharpest Satyr s thy Delight, 

* For Blood ! thou'lt stand it all. 

* A Line in the Epilogue to the Nonjuror. 



50 THE LIFE OF 

IX. 

Thunder, 'tis said, the Laurel spares ; 
Nought but thy Brows could blast it : 

And yet O ctirst, p7'ovoking Stars ! 

Thy Comfort is, thou hast it. 

This, Sir, I offer as a Proof that I was seven 
Years ago ^ the same cold Candidate for Fame 
which I would still be thought ; you will not easily 
suppose I could have much Concern about it, while, 
to gratify the merry Pique of my Friends, I was 
capable of seeming to head the Poetical Cry then 
against me, and at the same Time of never letting 
the Publick know 'till this Hour that these Verses 
were written by myself : Nor do I give them you as 
an Entertainment, but merely to shew you this par- 
ticular Cast of my Temper. 

When I have said this, I would not have it thought 
Affectation in me when I grant that no Man worthy 
the Name of an Author is a more faulty Writer than 
myself; that I am not Master of my own Language^ 

^ This allusion to time shows that Gibber began his " Apology " 
about 1737. 

^ Fielding has many extremely good attacks on Gibber's style 
and language. For instance : — 

" I shall here only obviate a flying Report . . . that whatever 
Language it was writ in, it certainly could not be English. . . . 
Now I shall prove it to be English in the following Manner. 
Whatever Book is writ in no other Language, is writ in English. 
This Book is writ in no other Language, Ergo, It is writ in 
English." — " Ghampion," 22nd April, 1740. 

Again ("Joseph Andrews," book iii. chap, vi.), addressing the 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 5 1 

I too often feel when I am at a loss for Expression : 
I know too that I have too bold a Disregard for that 
Correctness which others set so just a Value upon : 
This I ought to be ashamed of, when I find that 
Persons, perhaps of colder Imaginations, are allowed 
to write better than myself. Whenever I speak of 
any thing that highly delights me, I find it very diffi- 
cult to keep my Words within the Bounds of Com- 
mon Sense : Even when I write too, the same Failing 
will sometimes get the better of me ; of which I 
cannot give you a stronger Instance than in that 
wild Expression I made use of in the first Edition of 
my Preface to the Provok'd Husband ; where, speak- 
ing of Mrs. Oidjield's excellent Performance in the 
Part of Lady Townlyy my Words ran thus, viz. It is 
not enough to say, that here she outdid her usual Out- 
doing} — A most vile Jingle, I grant it ! You may 
well ask me. How could I possibly commit such a 
Wantonness to Paper ? And I owe myself the 
Shame of confessing I have no Excuse for it but 
that, like a Lover in the Fulness of his Content, by 
endeavouring to be floridly grateful I talk'd Non- 
sense. Not but it makes me smile to remember 
how many flat Writers have made themselves 
brisk upon this single Expression ; wherever the 

Muse or Genius that presides over Biography, he says : " Thou, 
who, without the assistance of the least spice of Hterature, and 
even against his incUnation, hast, in some pages of his book, 
forced CoUey Gibber to write Enghsh." 

• In later editions the expression was changed to " She here 
out-did her usual excellence." 



52 THE LIFE OF 

Verb, Outdo, could come in, the pleasant Accusative, 
Outdoiiigy was sure to follow it. The provident 
Wags knew that Z^^^z'^i- repetita place7^et :^ so delicious 
a Morsel could not be serv'd up too often ! After it 
had held them nine times told for a Jest, the Publick 
has been pester'd with a tenth Skull thick enough to 
repeat it. Nay, the very learned in the Law have 
at last facetiously laid hold of it ! Ten Years after 
it first came from me it served to enliven the elo- 
quence of an eloquent Pleader before a House of 
Parliament ! What Author would not envy me so 
frolicksome a Fault that had such publick Honours 
paid to it ? 

After this Consciousness of my real Defects, you 
will easily judge, Sir, how little I presume that my 
Poetical Labours may outlive those of my mortal 
Cotemporaries. "^ 

At the same time that I am so humble in my Pre- 
tensions to Fame, I would not be thought to under- 
value it ; Nature will not suffer us to despise it, but 
she may sometimes make us too fond of it. I have 
known more than one good Writer very near ridicu- 
lous from being in too much Heat about it. Who- 
ever intrinsically deserves it will always have a pro- 

' "Decies repetita placebit." — Horace, Ars Poetica, 365. 
" " For instance : when you rashly think, 

No rhymer can Hke Welsted sink, 

His merits balanc'd, you shall find, 

The laureat leaves him far behind." 

Swift, On Podry : a Rhapsody, 1, 393. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 53 

portionable Right to it. It can neither be resign'd 
nor taken from you by Violence. Truth, which is 
unalterable, must (however his Fame may be con- 
tested) give every Man his Due : What a Poem 
weighs it will be worth ; nor is it in the Power of 
Human Eloquence, with Favour or Prejudice, to 
increase or diminish its Value. Prejudice, 'tis true, 
may a while discolour it ; but it will always have its 
Appeal to the Equity of good Sense, which will 
never fail in the End to reverse all false Judgment 
aorainst it. Therefore when I see an eminent Author 
hurt, and impatient at an impotent Attack upon his 
Labours, he disturbs my Inclination to admire him ; 
I grow doubtful of the favourable Judgment I have 
made of him, and am quite uneasy to see him so 
tender in a Point he cannot but know he ought not 
himself to be judge of; his Concern indeed at 
another's Prejudice or Disapprobation may be natu- 
ral ; but to own it seems to me a natural Weakness. 
When a Work is apparently great it will go without 
Crutches ; all your Art and Anxiety to heighten the 
Fame of it then becomes low and little.^ He that 
will bear no Censure must be often robb'd of his 
due Praise. Fools have as good a Right to be 
Readers as Men of Sense have, and why not to give 

^ " Frankly. Then for your Reputation, if you won't bustle 
about it, and now and then give it these little Helps of Art, how 
can you hope to raise it ? 

Author \_Cibber\ If it can't live upon simple Nature, let it die, 
and be damn'd ! I shall give myself no further Trouble about 
it." — "The Egotist : or, Colley upon Gibber," p. 9. 

E 



54 THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 

their Judgrnents too ? Methinks it would be a sort 
of Tyranny in Wit for an Author to be publickly 
putting every Argument to death that appear'd 
against him ; so absolute a Demand for Approbation 
puts us upon our Right to dispute it ; Praise is as 
much the Reader's Property as Wit is the Author's ; 
Applause is not a Tax paid to him as a Prince, but 
rather a Benevolence o^iven to him as a Beesfar ; and 
we have naturally more Charity for the dumb Beggar 
than the sturdy one. The Merit of a Writer and a 
fine Woman's Face are never mended by their talk- 
ing of them : How amiable is she that seems not to 
know she is handsome ! 

To conclude ; all I have said upon this Subject is 
much better contained in six Lines of a Reverend 
Author, which will be an Answer to all critical Cen- 
sure for ever. 

Time is the Judge ; Time has noi" F^'iend nor Foe ; 

False Fame 7imst wither^ and the True will grow. 

Arm d with this Truth all Criticks I defy ; 

For, if I fall, by my own Pen I die ; 

While Snarlers strive with proud but fruitless Pain, 

To wotmd Immortals, or to slay the Slain} 

^ Young's second '* Epistle to Mr. Pope." 




CHAPTER III. 

The Author's several Chances for the Churchy the Court, and the 
Army. Going to the University. Met the Revolution at Not- 
tingham. Took Arms on that Side. What he saw of it. A feiv 
Political Thoughts. Fortune willing to do for him. His Neglect 
of her. The Stage preferred to all her Favours. The Profession 
of an Actor considered. The Misfortunes and Advantages of it. 

I AM now come to that Crisis of my Life when 
Fortune seem'd to be at a Loss what she should 
do with me. Had she favour'd my Father's first 
Designation of me, he might then, perhaps, have 
had as sanguine Hopes of my being a Bishop as I 
afterwards conceived of my being a General when I 
first took Arms at the Revolution. Nay, after that I 



56 THE LIFE OF 

had a third Chance too, equally as good, of becoming 
an Under-propper of the State. How at last I came 
to be none of all these the Sequel will inform you. 

About the Year 1687 I was taken from School to 
stand at the Election of Children into Winchester 
College ; my being by my Mother's Side a Descen- 
dant^ of William of Wickam, the Founder, my Father 
(who knew little how the World was to be dealt with) 
imagined my having that Advantage would be Se- 
curity enough for my Success, and so sent me simply 
down thither, without the least favourable Recom- 
mendation or Interest, but that of my naked Merit 
and a pompous Pedigree in my Pocket. Had he 
tack'd a Direction to my Back, and sent me by the 
Carrier to the Mayor of the Town, to be chosen 
Member of Parliament there, I might have had just as 
much Chance to have succeeded in the one as the 
other. But I must not omit in this Place to let you 
know that the Experience which my Father then 
bought, at my Cost, taught him some Years after to 
take a more judicious Care of my younger Brother, 
Leiuis Cibber, whom, with the Present of a Statue of 
the Founder, of his own making, he recommended 
to the same College. This Statue now stands (I 
think) over the School Door there,^ and was so well 

' Indirectly surely, William of Wykeham being a priest. 

^ I am indebted to the courtesy of the Head Master of Win- 
chester College, the Rev. Dr. Fearon, for the information that 
this statue, a finely designed and well-executed work, still stands 
over the door of the big school. A Latin inscription states that 
it was presented by Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1697. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 57 

executed that it seem'd to speak for Its Kinsman. 

It was no sooner set up than the Door of Preferment 
was open to him. 

Here one would think my Brother had the Advan- 
tage of me in the Favour of Fortune, by this his first 
laudable Step into the World. I own I was so 
proud of his Success that I even valued myself upon 
it ; and yet it is but a melancholy Reflection to ob- 
serve how unequally his Profession and mine were 
provided for; when I, who had been the Outcast of 
Fortune, could find means, from my Income of the 
Theatre, before I was my own Master there, to 
supply in his highest Preferment his common Ne- 
cessities. I cannot part with his Memory without 
telling you I had as sincere a Concern for this 
Brother's Well-being as my own. He had lively 
Parts and more than ordinary Learning, with a good 
deal of natural Wit and Humour; but from too great 
a disregard to his Health he died a Fellow of New 
College in Oxford soon after he had been ordained 
by Dr. Compton, then Bishop of London. I now 
return to the State of my own Affair at Winchester. 

After the Election, the Moment I was inform'd 
that I was one of the unsuccessful Candidates, I blest 
myself to think what a happy Reprieve I had got 
from the confin'd Life of a School-boy ! and the same 
Day took Post back to London, that I might arrive 
time enough to see a Play (then my darling Delight) 
before my Mother might demand an Account of my 
travelling Charges. When I look back to that Time, 



58 THE LIFE OF 

it almost makes me tremble to think what Miseries, 
in fifty Years farther in Life, such an unthinking 
Head was liable to ! To ask why Providence after- 
wards took more Care of me than I did of myself, 
might be making too bold an Enquiry into its secret 
Will and Pleasure : All I can say to that Point is, 
that I am thankful and amazed at it !^ 

'Twas about this time I first imbib'd an Inclination, 
which I durst not reveal, for the Stage ; for besides 
that I knew it would disoblige my Father, I had no 
Conception of any means practicable to make my 
way to it. I therefore suppress'd the bewitching 
Ideas of so sublime a Station, and compounded with 
my Ambition by laying a lower Scheme, of only 
getting the nearest way into the immediate Life of a 
Gentleman-Collegiate. My Father being at this 
time employ'd at Chattsworth in Derbyshire by the 

^ Bellchambers finds in this sentence "a levity, which accords 
with the charges so often brought against Gibber of impiety and 
irrehgion ; " and he quotes from Davies (" Dram. Misc.," iii. 506) 
two stories — one, that Gibber spat at a picture of our Saviour ; 
and the other, that he endeavoured to enter into discussion with 
•' honest Mr. William Whiston " with the intention of insulting 
him. Both anecdotes seem to me rather fooHsh. I do not 
suppose Gibber was in any sense a religious man, but his works 
are far from giving any offence to religion ; and, as a paid sup- 
porter of a Protestant succession, I think he was too prudent to 
be an open scoffer. A sentence in one of Victor's " Letters " 
(i. 72), written from Tunbridge, would seem to show that Gibber 
at least preserved appearances. He says, " Every one complies 
with what is called the fashion — Cibber goes constantly to prayers 
— and the Curate (to return the compliment) as constantly, when 
prayers are over, to the Gaming table!" 



i 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 59 

(then) Earl of Devonshire, who was raising that Seat 
from a Gothick to a Grecian Magnificence, I made 
use of the Leisure I then had in London to open to 
him by Letter my Disinclination to wait another 
Year for an uncertain Preferment at Winchester, and 
to entreat him that he would send me, per salttcm, 
by a shorter Cut, to the University. My Father, 
who was naturally indulgent to me, seem'd to comply 
with my Request, and wrote word that as soon as 
his Affairs would permit, he would carry me with 
him and settle me in some College, but rather at 
Carnbridge, where (during his late Residence at that 
Place, in making some Statues that now stand upon 
Trinity College New Library) he had contracted 
some Acquaintance with the Heads of Houses, who 
might assist his Intentions for me.^ This I lik'd 

^ By the kindness of a friend at Cambridge I am enabled to 
give the following interesting extracts from a letter written by Mr. 
William White, of Trinity College Library, regarding the statues 
here referred to : " They occupy the four piers, subdividing the 
balustrade on the east side of the Library, overlooking Neville's 
Court. The four Statues represent Divinity, Law, Physic, and 
Mathematics. That these were executed by Mr. Gabriel Cibber 
our books will prove. I will give you two or three extracts from 
Grumbold's Account Book, kept in the Library. He was Fore- 
man of the Works when the Library was built. I think Cibber 
cut the Statues here. It is quite certain he and his men were here 
some time : no doubt they superintended the placing of them in 
their positions, at so great a height. 

• Payd for the Carridg of a Larg Block Stone Given by John 
Manning to y'^ Coll. for one of y** Figures oi : oo : oo.' 

'May 7, 1681. F" to M"" Gabriell Cibber for cutting four 
statues 80 : 00 : co.' 



6o THE LIFE OF 

better than to go discountenanc'd to Oxford, to which 
it would have been a sort of Reproach to me not to 
have come elected. After some Months were elaps'd, 
my Father, not being willing to let me lie too long 
idling in London, sent for me down to Chattsworth, 
to be under his Eye, till he cou'd be at leisure to 
carry me to Cambridge, Before I could set out on 
my Journey thither, the Nation fell in labour of the 
Revolution, the News being then just brought to 
London That the Prince of Orange at the Head 
of an Army was landed in the West} When I 
came to Nottingham, I found my Father in Arms 
there, among those Forces which the Earl of 
Devonshire had rais'd for the Redress of our violated 
Laws and Liberties. My Father judg'd this a proper 
Season for a young Strippling to turn himself loose 
into the Bustle of the World ; and being himself too 
advanc'd in Years to endure the Winter Fatigue 
which might possibly follow, entreated that noble 
Lord that he would be pleas'd to accept of his Son 
in his room, and that he would give him (my Father) 
leave to return and finish his Works at Chattsworth. 
This was so well receiv'd by his Lordship that he 
not only admitted of my Service, but promis'd my 

' 27 June. P" to y' Widdo Bats for M"" Gabriel Gibbers and 
his mens diatt 05 : iS : 11. P'^ to M'' Martin [for the same] 
12 : 03 : 03.'" 

In connection with these statues an amusing practical joke was 
played while Byron was an undergraduate, which was attributed to 
him^unjustly, however, I believe. 

^ 5th November, 1688. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 6 1 

Father in return that when Affairs were settled he 
would provide for me. Upon this my Father re- 
turn'd to Derbyshire, while I, not a little transported, 
jump'd into his Saddle. Thus in one Day all my 
Thoughts of the University were smother'd in Am- 
bition ! A slisfht Commission for a Horse-Officer 
was the least View I had before me. At this Crisis 
you cannot but observe that the Fate of King James 
and of the Prince of Orange, and that of so minute a 
Being as my self, were all at once upon the Anvil : 
In what shape they wou'd severally come out, tho' a 
good Guess might be made, was not then demonstrable 
to the deepest Foresight ; but as my Fortune seem'd 
to be of small Importance to the Publick, Providence 
thought fit to postpone it 'till that of those great 
Rulers of Nations was justly perfected. Yet, had 
my Father's Business permitted him to have carried 
me one Month sooner (as he intended) to the Uni- 
versity, who knows but by this time that purer 
Fountain might have wash'd my Imperfections into 
a Capacity of writing (instead of Plays and Annual 
Odes) Sermons and Pastoral Letters. But whatever 
Care of the Church might so have fallen to my share, 
as I dare say it may be now in better Hands, I ought 
not to repine at my being otherwise disposed of.^ 

* Fielding, in " Joseph Andrews," book i. chap, i : " How 
artfully does the former [Gibber] by insinuating that he escaped 
being ])romoted to the highest stations in the Church and State, 
teach us a contemijt of worldly grandeur ! how strongly docs he 
inculcate an absolute submission to our Superiors ! " 



62 THE LIFE OF 

You must now consider me as one among those 
desperate Thousands, who, after a Patience sorely 
try'd, took Arms under the Banner of Necessity, the 
natural Parent of all Human Laws and Government. 
I question If in all the Histories of Empire there 
Is one Instance of so bloodless a Revolution as that 
in England m 1688, wherein Whigs, Tories, Princes, 
Prelates, Nobles, Clergy, common People, and a 
Standing Army, were unanimous. To have seen all 
E7igla7id of one Mind is to have llv'd at a very par- 
ticular Juncture. Happy Nation ! who are never 
divided among themselves but when they have least 
to complain of! Our greatest Grievance since that 
Time seems to have been that we cannot all govern ; 
and 'till the Number of good Places are equal to 
those who think themselves qualified for them there 
must ever be a Cause of Contention amoncr us. 
While Great Men want great Posts, the Nation will 
never want real or seeming Patriots ; and while great 
Posts are fill'd with Persons whose Capacities are 
but Human, such Persons will never be allow'd to be 
without Errors ; not even the Revolution, with all its 
Advantages, It seems, has been able to furnish us 
with unexceptionable Statesmen ! for from that time 
I don't remember any one Set of Ministers that have 
not been heartily rall'd at ; a Period long enough 
one would think (If all of them have been as bad as 
they have been call'd) to make a People despair of 
ever seeing a good one : But as It Is possible that 
Envy, Prejudice, or Party may sometimes have a 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 6t, 

share in what is generally thrown upon 'em, it is not 
easy for a private Man to know who is absolutely in 
the right from what is said against them, or from 
what their Friends or Dependants may say in their 
Favour: Tho' I can hardly forbear thinking that 
they who have been longest rail'd at, must from that 
Circumstance shew in some sort a Proof of Capacity. 

But to my History. 

It were almost incredible to tell you, at the latter 
end of King James s Time (though the Rod of 
Arbitrary Power was always shaking over us) with 
what Freedom and Contempt the common People in 
the open Streets talk'd of his wild Measures to make 
a whole Protestant Nation Papists ; and yet, in the 
height of our secure and wanton Defiance of him, we 
of the Vulgar had no farther Notion of any Remedy 
for this Evil than a satisfy'd Presumption that our 
Numbers were too great to be master'd by his mere 
Will and Pleasure ; that though he might be too 
hard for our Laws, he would never be able to get 
the better of our Nature ; and that to drive all Eng- 
land into Popery and Slavery he would find would 
be teaching an old Lion to dance.^ 

^ Fielding ("Champion," 6th May, 1740): "Not to mention our 
Author's Comparisons of himself to King James, the Prince of 
Orange, Alexander the Great, Charles the Xllth, and Harry IV. 
of France, his favourite Simile is a Lion, ihws page 39, we have a 
SATISFIED PRESUMPTION, that to drive England into slavery is like 
teaching an old lion to dance. 1 04. Our new critics are like 
Lions Whelps that dash down the Bowls of Milk &-c. besides a 
third Allusion to the same Animal : and this brings into my i\Iind 



64 THE LIFE OF 

But happy was it for the Nation that it had then 
wiser Heads in it, who knew how to lead a People 
so dispos'd into Measures for the Publick Preser- 
vation, 

Here I cannot help reflecting on the very different 
Deliverances England met with at this Time and in 
the very same Year of the Century before : Then (in 
1588) under a glorious Princess, who had at heart 
the Good and Happiness of her People, we scatter'd 
and destroy'd the most formidable Navy of Invaders 
that ever cover'd the Seas : And now (in 1688) 
under a Prince who had alienated the Hearts of his 
People by his absolute Measures to oppress them, a 
foreign Power is receiv'd with open Arms in defence 
of our Laws, Liberties, and Religion, which our 
native Prince had invaded ! How widely different 
were these two Monarchs in their Sentiments of 
Glory ! But, Tantum religio potziit suadere ma- 
lorum. ^ 

When we consider in what height of the Nation's 
Prosperity the Successor of Queen Elizabeth came 
to this Throne, it seems amazing that such a Pile of 
English Fame and Glory, which her skilful Admini- 

a Story which I once heard from Booth, that our Biographer had, 
in one of his Plays in a Local Simile, introduced this generous 
Least in some Island or Country where Lions did not grow ; of 
which being informed by the learned Booths the Biographer re- 
plied, Prithee tell me then, where there is a Lion, for God's 
Curse, if there be a Lion in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, / 
will not lose my simile. " 
^ Lucretius, i. 102. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 65 

stration had erected, should in every following 
Reign down to the Revolution so unhappily moulder 
away in one continual Gradation of Political Errors : 
All which must have been avoided, if the plain Rule 
which that wise Princess left behind her had been 
observed, viz. That the Love of her People was the 
surest Support of her ThT'one. This was the Prin- 
ciple by which she so happily govern'd herself and 
those she had the Care of. In this she found 
Strength to combat and struggle thro' more Diffi- 
culties and dangerous Conspiracies than ever English 
Monarch had to cope with. At the same time that 
she profess'd to desire the People's Love, she took 
care that her Actions shou'd deserve it, without the 
least Abatement of her Prerogative ; the Terror of 
which she so artfully covered that she sometimes 
seem'd to flatter those she was determin'd should 
obey. If the four following Princes had exercis'd 
their Regal Authority with so visible a Regard to 
the Publick Welfare, it were hard to knov/ whether 
the People of England might have ever complain'd 
of them, or even felt the want of that Liberty they 
now so happily enjoy. 'Tis true that before her 
Time our Ancestors had many successful Contests 
with their Sovereigns for their ancient Right and 
Claim to it ; yet what did those Successes amount 
to ? little more than a Declaration that there was 
such a Right in being ; but who ever saw it enjoy'd ? 
Did not the Actions of almost every succeeding 
Reign shew there were still so many Doors of 



66 THE LIFE OF 

Oppression left open to the Prerogative that (what- 
ever Value our most eloquent Legislators may have 
set upon those ancient Liberties) I doubt it will be 
difficult to fix the Period of their having a real Being 
before the Revolution : Or if there ever was an elder 
Period of our unmolested enjoying them, I own my 
poor Judgment is at a loss where to place it. I will 
boldly say then, it is to the Revolution only we owe 
the full Possession of what, 'till then, we never had 
more than a perpetually contested Right to : And, 
from thence, from the Revolution it is that the Pro- 
testant Successors of King William have found their 
Paternal Care and Maintenance of that Right has 
been the surest Basis of their Glory.^ 

These, Sir, are a few of my Political Notions, which 
I have ventur'd to expose that you may see what 
sort of an English Subject I am ; how wise or weak 
they may have shewn me is not my Concern ; let 
the weight of these Matters have drawn me never so 
far out of my Depth, I still flatter myself that I have 
kept a simple, honest Head above Water. And it 
is a solid Comfort to me to consider that how in- 
significant soever my Life was at the Revolution, it 
had still the g-ood Fortune to make one amonsf the 
many who brought it about ; and that I now, with 

^ John Dennis, in an advertisement to " The Invader of his 
Country," 1720, says, "'tis as easy for Mr. Cibber at this time of 
Day to make a Bounce with his Loyalty, as 'tis for a Bully at Sea, 
who had lain hid in the Hold all the time of the Fight, to come 
up and swagger upon the Deck after the Danger is over." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 67 

my Cosevals, as well as with the Millions since born, 
enjoy the happy Effects of it. 

But I must now let you see how my particular 
Fortune went forward with this Change in the 
Government ; of which I shall not pretend to give 
you any farther Account than what my simple Eyes 
saw of it. 

We had not been many Days at Nottingham before 

we heard that the Prince of Denmark, with some 

other great Persons, were gone off from the King to 

the Prince of Orange, and that the Princess Anne, 

fearinof the Kine her Father's Resentment might fall 

upon her for her Consort's Revolt, had withdrawn 

her self in the Night from London, and was then 

within half a Days Journey of Nottingham ; on 

which very Morning we were suddenly alarm'd with 

the News that two thousand of the King's Dragoons 

were in close pursuit to bring her back Prisoner to 

London : But this Alarm it seems was all Stratagem, 

and was but a part of that general Terror which was 

thrown into many other Places about the Kingdom 

at the same time, with design to animate and unite 

the People in their common defence ; it being then 

given out that the Irish were every where at our 

Heels to cut off all the Protestants within the Reach 

of their Fury. In this Alarm our Troops scrambled 

to Arms in as much Order as their Consternation 

would admit of, when, having advanc'd some few 

Miles on the London Road, they met the Princess in 

a Coach, attended only by the Lady Churchill (now 



68 THE LIFE OF 

Dutchess Dowager of Marlborough) and the Lady 
Fitzhardiiig, whom they conducted into Nottingham 
through the Acclamations of the People : The same 
Night all the Noblemen and the other Persons of 
Distinction then in Arms had the Honour to sup 
at her Royal Highness's Table ; which was then fur- 
nish'd (as all her necessary Accommodations were) 
by the Care and at the Charge of the Lord Devon- 
shire. At this Entertainment, of which I was a 
Spectator, something very particular surpriz'd me : 
The noble Guests at the Table happening to be 
more in number than Attendants out of Liveries 
could be found for, I being well known in the Lord 
Devonshire's Family, was desired by his Lordship's 
Maitre d' Hotel to assist at it : The Post assign'd me 
was to observe what the Lady Churchill might call 
for. Being so near the Table, you may naturally 
ask me what I might have heard to have pass'd in 
Conversation at it ? which I should certainly tell you 
had I attended to above two Words that were utter'd 
there, and those were, Some Wine and Water. These 
I remember came distinguish'd and observ'd to my 
Ear, because they came from the fair Guest whom I 
took such Pleasure to wait on: Except at that single 
Sound, all my Senses were collected into my Eyes, 
which during the whole Entertainment wanted no 
better Amusement, than of stealing now and then 
the Delight of gazing on the fair Object so near me : 
If so clear an Emanation of Beauty, such a command- 
ing Grace of Aspect struck me into a Regard that 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 69 

had something softer than the most profound Respect 
in it, I cannot see why I may not without Offence 
remember it ; since Beauty, Hke the Sun, must some- 
times lose its Power to chuse, and shine into equal 
Warmth the Peasant and the Courtier.^ Now to 
give you, Sir, a farther Proof of how good a Taste 
my first hopeful Entrance into Manhood set out 
with, I remember above twenty Years after, when 
the same Lady had given the World four of the 
loveliest Daughters that ever were gaz'd on, even 
after they were all nobly married, and were become 
the reigning Toasts of every Party of Pleasure, their 
still lovely Mother had at the same time her Votaries, 
and her Health very often took the Lead in those 
involuntary Triumphs of Beauty. However pre- 
sumptuous or impertinent these Thoughts might 
have appear'd at my first entertaining them, why 
may I not hope that my having kept them decently 
secret for full fifty Years may be now a good round 
Plea for their Pardon ? Were I now qualify'd to 
say more of this celebrated Lady, I should conclude 
it thus : That she has liv'd (to all Appearance) a 
peculiar Favourite of Providence ; that few Examples 
can parallel the Profusion of Blessings which have 
attended so long a Life of Felicity. A Person so 

^ "Champion," 29th April, 1740 : ** When \npage 42, we read, 
Beauty Shines into equal Warmth the Peasant and the Courtier, 
do we not know what he means though he hath made a Verb 
active of Shine, as in Page 117, he hath of Regret, nothitig could 
more painful/y regret a judicious Spectator ^ 



70 THE LIFE OF 

attractive ! a Husband so memorably great ! an Off- 
spring so beautiful ! a Fortune so immense ! and a 
Title which (when Royal Favour had no higher to 
bestow) she only could receive from the Author of 
Nature ; a great Grandmother without grey Hairs ! 
These are such consummate Indulgences that we 
might think Heaven has center'd them all in one 
Person, to let us see how far, with a lively Under- 
standing, the full Possession of them could contribute 
to human Happiness. — I now return to our Military 
Affairs. 

From Nottmgham our Troops march'd to Oxford ; 
through every Town we pass'd the People came out, 
in some sort of Order, with such rural and rusty 
Weapons as they had, to meet us, in Acclamations of 
Welcome and good Wishes. This I thought pro- 
mis'd a favourable End of our Civil War, when the 
Nation seem'd so willing to be all of a Side ! At 
Oxford the Prince and Princess of Denmark met for 
the first time after their late Separation, and had all 
possible Honours paid them by the University. 
Here we rested in quiet Quarters for several Weeks, 
till the Flight of YJing James into France ; when the 
Nation being left to take care of it self, the only 
Security that could be found for it was to advance 
the Prince and Princess of Orange to the vacant 
Throne. The publick Tranquillity being now settled, 
our Forces were remanded back to Nottingham. 
Here all our Officers who had commanded them 
from their first Risincj receiv'd Commissions to con- 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 7 1 

firm them in their several Posts ; and at the same 
time such private Men as chose to return to their 
proper Business or Habitations were offer'd their 
Discharges. Among the small number of those who 
receiv'd them, I was one ; for not hearing that my 
Name was in any of these new Commissions, I 
thought it time for me to take my leave of Ambition, 
as Ambition had before seduc'd me from the imaei- 
nary Honours of the Gown, and therefore resolv'd 
to hunt my Fortune in some other Field/ 

^ One of the commonest imputations made against Gibber was 
that he was of a cowardly temper. In " Common Sense " for 
nth June, 1737, a paper attributed to Lord Chesterfield, there is a 
dissertation on kicking as a humorous incident on the stage. The 
writer adds : " Of all the Comedians who have appeared upon the 
Stage within my Memory, no one has taking {sic) a Kicking with so 
much Humour as our present most excellent Laureat, and I am 
informed his Son does not fall much short of him in this Excel- 
lence ; I am very glad of it, for as 1 have a Kindness for the 
young Man, I hope to see him as well kick'd as his Father was 
before him." 

I confess that I am not quite sure how far this sentence is 
ironically meant, but Bellchambers refers to it as conveying a 
serious accusation of cowardice. He also quotes from Davies 
(" Dram. Misc.," iii. 487), who relates, on the authority of Victor, 
that Gibber, having reduced Bickerstaffe's salary by one-half, was 
waited upon by that actor, who " flatly told him, that as he could 
not subsist on the small sum to which he had reduced his salary, 
he must call the author of his distress to an account, for that it 
would be easier for him to lose his life than to starve. The 
affrighted Gibber told him, he should receive an answer from him 
on Saturday next. Bickerstaffe found, on that day, his usual in- 
come was continued." This story rests only on Victor's authority, 
but is, of course, not improbable. There is also a vague report 
that Gay, in revenge for Gibber's banter of " Three Hours 

F 



72 THE LIFE OF 

From N'ottingkain I again return'd to my Father 
at Chattsworth, where I staid till my Lord came 
down, with the new Honours ^ of Lord Steward of his 
Majesty's Houshold and Knight of the Garter! a 
noble turn of Fortune! and a deep Stake he had 
play'd for ! which calls to my Memory a Story we 
had then in the Family, which though too light for 
our graver Historians notice, may be of weight 
enough for my humble Memoirs. This noble Lord 
being in the Presence-Chamber in King James s 
time, and known to be no Friend to the Measures 
of his Administration, a certain Person in favour 
there, and desirous to be more so, took occasion to 
tread rudely upon his Lordship's Foot, which was 
return'd with a sudden Blow upon the Spot : For 
this Misdemeanour his Lordship was fin'd thirty 
thousand Pounds ; but I think had some time allow'd 
him for the Payment.'^ In the Summer preceding the 
Revolution, when his Lordship was retir'd to Chatts- 
worth, and had been there deeply engag'd with other 
Noblemen in the Measures which soon after brought 
it to bear. King Ja7nes sent a Person down to him 
with Offers to mitigate his Fine upon Conditions of 
ready Payment, to which his Lordship reply'd, That 
if his Majesty pleas'd to allow him a little longer 

after Marriage," personally chastised him, but I know no good 
authority for the story. 

' Gibber (ist ed.) wrote : "new Honours of Duke of Devon- 
shire, Lord Steward," &c. He corrected his blunder in 2nd ed. 

2 See Macaulay ("History," 1858, vol. ii. p. 251). 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 7 



O 



time, he would rather chuse to play double or quit 
with him : The time of the intended Risingf beinof 
then so near at hand, the Demand, it seems, came 
too late for a more serious Answer. 

However low my Pretensions to Preferment were 
at this time, my Father thought that a little Court- 
Favour added to them might give him a Chance for 
saving the Expence of maintaining me, as he had 
intended, at the University : He therefore order'd 
me to draw up a Petition to the Duke, and, to give 
it some Air of Merit, to put it into Latin, the Prayer 
of which was. That his Grace would be pleas'd to do 
something (I really forget what) forme. How- 
ever the Duke, upon receiving it, was so good as to 
desire my Father would send me to London in the 
Winter, where he would consider of some Provision 
for me. It might, indeed, well require time to con- 
sider it ; for I believe it was then harder to know 
what I was really fit for, than to have got me any 
thing I was not fit for : However, to London I came, 
where I enter'd into my first State of Attendance 
and Dependance for about five Months, till the 
February following. But alas ! in my Intervals of 
Leisure, by frequently seeing Plays, my wise Head 
was turn'd to higher Views, I saw no Joy in any 
other Life than that of an Actor, so that (as before, 
when a Candidate at Winchester) I was even afraid 
of succeeding to the Preferment I sought for : 'Twas 
on the Stage alone I had form'd a Happiness prefer- 
able to all that Camps or Courts could offer me ! and 



74 THE LIFE OF 

there was I determin'd, let Father and Mother take 
it as they pleas'd, to fix my non tiltra} Here I 
think my self oblig'd, in respect to the Honour of that 
noble Lord, to acknowledge that I believe his real 
Intentions to do well for me were prevented by my 
own inconsiderate Folly ; so that if my Life did not 
then take a more laudable Turn, I have no one but 
my self to reproach for it ; for I was credibly inform'd 
by the Gentlemen of his Houshold, that his Grace 
had, in their hearing, talk'd of recommending me to 
the Lord Shrewsbury, then Secretary of State, for 
the first proper Vacancy in that Office. But the 
distant Hope of a Reversion was too cold a Tempta- 
tion for a Spirit impatient as mine, that wanted im- 
mediate Possession of what my Heart was so diffe- 
rently set upon. The Allurements of a Theatre are 
still so strong in my Memory, that perhaps few, 
except those who have felt them, can conceive : And 
I am yet so far willing to excuse my Folly, that I am 
convinc'd, were it possible to take off that Disgrace 
and Prejudice which Custom has thrown upon the 
Profession of an Actor, many a well-born younger 
Brother and Beauty of low Fortune would gladly 
have adorn'd the Theatre, who by their not being 
able to brook such Dishonour to their Birth, have 

* Davies (" Dram. Misc.," iii. 444) says : " Gibber and Ver- 
bruggen were two dissipated young fellows, who determined, in 
opposition to the advice of friends, to become great actors. Much 
about the same time, they were constant attendants upon Downes, 
the prompter of Drury-Lane, in expectation of employment." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 75 

pass'd away their Lives decently unheeded and 
forgotten. 

Many Years ago, when I was first in the Menage- 
ment of the Theatre, I remember a strong Instance, 
which will shew you what degree of Ignominy the 
Profession of an Actor was then held at. — A Lady, 
with a real Title, whose female Indiscretions had 
occasion'd her Family to abandon her, being willing, 
in her Distress, to make an honest Penny of what 
Beauty she had left, desired to be admitted as an 
Actress ; when before she could receive our Answer, 
a Gentleman (probably by her Relation's Permission) 
advis'd us not to entertain her, for Reasons easy to 
be guess'd. You may imagine we cou'd not be so 
blind to our Interest as to make an honourable 
Family our unnecessary Enemies by not taking his 
Advice ; which the Lady, too, being sensible of, saw 
the Affair had its Difficulties, and therefore pursu'd 
it no farther. Now, is it not hard that it should 
be a doubt whether this Lady's Condition or ours 
were the more melancholy ? For here you find her 
honest Endeavour to get Bread from the Stage was 
look'd upon as an Addition of new Scandal to her 
former Dishonour ! so that I am afraid, according to 
this way of thinking, had the same Lady stoop'd to 
have sold Patches and Pomatum in a Band-box 
from Door to Door, she might in that Occupation 
have starv'd with less Infamy than had she reliev'd 
her Necessities by being famous on the Theatre. 
Whether this Prejudice may have arisen from the 



76 THE LIFE OF 

Abuses that so often have crept in upon the Stage, 
I am not clear in ; tho' when that is grossly the 
Case, I will allow there ought to be no Limits set to 
the Contempt of it ; yet in its lowest Condition in 
my time, methinks there could have been no Pretence 
of preferring the Band-box to the Buskin. But this 
severe Opinion, whether merited or not, is not the 
greatest Distress that this Profession is liable to. 

I shall now give you another Anecdote, quite the 
reverse of what I have instanc'd, wherein you will 
see an Actress as hardly us'd for an Act of Modesty 
(which without being a Prude, a Woman, even upon 
the Stage, may sometimes think it necessary not to 
throw off) This too I am forc'd to premise, that the 
Truth of what I am going to tell you may not be 
sneer'd at before it be known. About the Year 1 71 7, 
a young Actress of a desirable Person, sitting in an 
upper Box at the Opera, a military Gentleman 
thought this a proper Opportunity to secure a little 
Conversation with her, the Particulars of which were 
probably no more worth repeating than it seems the 
Damoiselle then thought them worth listening to ; 
for, notwithstanding the fine Things he said to her, 
she rather chose to give the Musick the Preference 
of her Attention : This Indifference was so offensive 
to his high Heart, that he began to change the 
Tender into the Terrible, and, in short, proceeded at 
last to treat her in a Style too grosly insulting for 
the meanest Female Ear to endure unresented : 
Upon which, being beaten too far out of her Discre- 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 77 

tion, she turn'd hastily upon him with an angry Look, 
and a Reply which seem'd to set his Merit in so 
low a Regard, that he thought himself oblig'd in 
Honour to take his time to resent it : This was the 
full Extent of her Crime, which his Glory delay'd no 
longer to punish than 'till the next time she was to 
appear upon the Stage : There, in one of her best 
Parts, wherein she drew a favourable Regard and 
Approbation from the Audience, he, dispensing with 
the Respect which some People think due to a polite 
Assembly, began to interrupt her Performance with 
such loud and various Notes of Mockery, as other 
young Men of Honour in the same Place have some- 
times made themselves undauntedly merry with : 
Thus, deaf to all Murmurs or Entreaties of those 
about him, he pursued his Point, even to throwing 
near her such Trash as no Person can be suppos'd 
to carry about him unless to use on so particular an 
Occasion. 

A Gentleman then behind the Scenes, being 
shock'd at his unmanly Behaviour, was warm enough 
to say, That no Man but a Fool or a Bully cou'd be 
capable of insulting an Audience or a Woman in so 
monstrous a manner. The former valiant Gentle- 
man, to whose Ear the Words were soon brought by 
his Spies, whom he had plac'd behind the Scenes to 
observe how the Action was taken there, came imme- 
diately from the Pit in a Heat, and demanded to 
know of the Author of those Words if he was the 
Person that spoke them ? to which he calmly reply'd. 



yS THE LIFE OF 

That though he had never seen him before, yet, 
since he seem'd so earnest to be satisfy'd, he would 
do him the favour to own, That indeed the Words 
were his, and that they would be the last Words he 
should chuse to deny, whoever they might fall upon. 
To conclude, their Dispute was ended the next 
Morning in Hyde-Park, where the determin'd Com- 
batant who first ask'd for Satisfaction was oblig'd 
afterwards to ask his Life too ; whether he mended 
it or not, I have not yet heard ; but his Antagonist in 
a few Years after died in one of the principal Posts 
of the Government/ 

Now, though I have sometimes known these gal- 
lant Insulters of Audiences draw themselves into 
Scrapes which they have less honourably got out of, 
yet, alas ! what has that avail'd ? This generous 
publick-spirited Method of silencing a few was but 
repelling the Disease in one Part to make it break 
out in another : All Endeavours at Protection are 
new Provocations to those who pride themselves in 
pushing their Courage to a Defiance of Humanity. 
Even when a Royal Resentment has shewn itself in 
the behalf of an injur'd Actor, it has been unable to 
defend him from farther Insults! an Instance of 
which happen'd in the late King James Sy time. Mr. 
Smith"^ {whose Character as a Gentleman could have 

^ " The Laureat " states that Miss Santlow (afterwards Mrs. 
Barton Booth) was the actress referred to ; that Captain Montague 
was her assailant, and Mr. Secretary Craggs her defender. 

~ See memoir of WilHam Smith at end of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 79 

been no way impeach'd had he not degraded it by 
being a celebrated Actor) had the Misfortune, in a 
Dispute with a Gentleman behind the Scenes, to re- 
ceive a Blow from him : The same Niofht an Account 
of this Action was carry 'd to the King, to whom the 
Gentleman was represented so grosly in the wrong, 
that the next Day his Majesty sent to forbid him the 
Court upon it. This Indignity cast upon a Gentle- 
man only for having maltreated a Player, was look'd 
upon as the Concern of every Gentleman ; and a 
Party was soon form'd to assert and vindicate their 
Honour, by humbling this favour'd Actor, whose 
slight Injury had been judg'd equal to so severe a 
Notice. Accordingly, the next time Smith acted he 
was receiv'd with a Chorus of Cat-calls, that soon 
convinc'd him he should not be suffer'd to proceed 
in his Part ; upon which, without the least Discom- 
posure, he order'd the Curtain to be dropp'd ; and, 
having a competent Fortune of his own, thought the 
Conditions of adding to it by his remaining upon the 
Stage were too dear, and from that Day entirely 
quitted it.^ I shall make no Observation upon the 
King's Resentment, or on that of his good Sub- 
jects ; how far either was or was not right, is not the 
Point I dispute for : Be that as it may, the unhappy 
Condition of the Actor was so far from being reliev'd 
by this Royal Interposition in his favour, that it was 
the worse for it. 

While these sort of real Distresses on the Staee 
' See memoir. 



8o THE LIFE OF 

are so unavoidable, it is no wonder that young 
People of Sense (though of low Fortune) should be 
so rarely found to supply a Succession of good Actors. 
Why then may we not, in some measure, impute the 
Scarcity of them to the wanton Inhumanity of those 
Spectators, who have made it so terribly mean to ap- 
pear there ? Were there no ground for this Ques- 
tion, where could be the Disgrace of entring into a 
Society whose Institution, when not abus'd, is a de- 
lightful School of Morality ; and where to excel 
requires as ample Endowments of Nature as any one 
Profession (that of holy Institution excepted) what- 
soever ? But, alas ! as Shakespear says, 

Where s that Palace, whereiitto, sometimes 
Foul things intj'ude not f ^ 

Look into St. Peter's at Rome, and see what a 
profitable Farce is made of Religion there ! Why 
then is an Actor more blemish'd than a Cardinal ? 
While the Excellence of the one arises from his 
innocently seeming what he is not, and the Emi- 
nence of the other from the most impious Fallacies 
that can be impos'd upon human Understanding ? If 
the best things, therefore, are most liable to Corrup- 
tion, the Corruption of the Theatre is no Disproof 
of its innate and primitive Utility. 

In this Light, therefore, all the Abuses of the 
Stage, all the low, loose, or immoral Supplements to 

^ " As where's that palace whereinto foul things 

Sometimes intrude not ? " — " Othello," act iii. sc. 3. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 8 1 

wit, whether in making Virtue 'ridiculous or Vice 
agreeable, or in the decorated Nonsense and Absur- 
dities of Pantomimical Trumpery, I give up to the 
Contempt of every sensible Spectator, as so much 
rank Theatrical Popery. But cannot still allow these 
Enormities to impeach the Profession, while they are 
so palpably owing to the deprav'd Taste of the Mul- 
titude. While Vice and Farcical Folly are the 
most profitable Commodities, why should we wonder 
that, time out of mind, the poor Comedian, when real 
Wit would bear no Price, should deal in what would 
bring him most ready Money ? But this, you will 
say, is making the Stage a Nursery of Vice and 

Folly, or at least keeping an open Shop for It. 

I grant it : But who do you expect should reform 
it ? The Actors ? Why so ? If People are permitted 
to buy it without blushing, the Theatrical Merchant 
seems to have an equal Right to the Liberty of sell- 
ing it without Reproach. That this Evil wants a 
Remedy is not to be contested ; nor can it be denied 
that the Theatre is as capable of being preserv'd by 
a Reformation as Matters of more Importance; 
which, for the Honour of our National Taste, I could 
wish were attempted ; and then, if it could not sub- 
sist under decent Regulations, by not being per- 
mitted to present any thing there but what were 
worthy to be there, it would be time enough to con- 
sider, whether it were necessary to let it totally fall, 
or effectually support it. 

Notwithstanding all my best Endeavours to re- 



82 THE LIFE OF 

commend the Profession of an Actor to a more 
general Favour, I doubt, while it is liable to such 
Corruptions, and the Actor himself to such unlimited 
Insults as I have already mention'd, I doubt, I 
say, we must still leave him a-drift, with his intrinsick 
Merit, to ride out the Storm as well as he is able. 

However, let us now turn to the other side of this 
Account, and see what Advantages stand there to 
balance the Misfortunes I have laid before you. There 
we shall still find some valuable Articles of Credit, 
that sometimes overpay his incidental Disgraces. 

First, if he has Sense, he will consider that as 
these Indignities are seldom or never offer'd him by 
People that are remarkable for any one good Quality, 
he ought not to lay them too close to his Heart : He 
will know too, that when Malice, Envy, or a brutal 
Nature, can securely hide or fence themselves in a 
Multitude, Virtue, Merit, Innocence, and even sove- 
reign Superiority, have been, and must be equally 
liable to their Insults; that therefore, when they fall 
upon him in the same manner, his intrinsick Value 
cannot be diminish'd by them : On the contrary, if, 
with a decent and unruffled Temper, he lets them 
pass, the Disgrace will return upon his Aggressor, 
and perhaps warm the generous Spectator into a Par- 
tiality in his Favour. 

That while he is conscious. That, as an Actor, he 
must be always in the Hands of Injustice, it does 
him at least this involuntary Good, that it keeps him 
in a settled Resolution to avoid all Occasions of pro- 
voking it, or of even offending the lowest Enemy, 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 83 

who, at the Expence of a ShilHng, may pubHckly 
revenge it. 

That, if he excells on the Stage, and is irreproach- 
able in his Personal Morals and Behaviour, his Pro- 
fession is so far from being an Impediment, that it 
will be oftner a just Reason for his being receiv'd 
among People of condition with Favour ; and some- 
times with a more social Distinction, than the best, 
though more profitable Trade he might have follow'd, 
could have recommended him to. 

That this is a Happiness to which several Actors 
within my Memory, as Bctterton, Smithy Montfort, 
Captain Griffi^i^ and Mrs. Bracegirdle (yet living) 
have arriv'd at ; to which I may add the late cele- 

1 Captain Griffin was, no doubt, the Griffin who is mentioned 
by Downes as entering the King's Company "after they had 
begun at Drury Lane." This is of course very indefinite as regards 
time. Drury Lane was opened in 1663, but the first character 
for which we can find Griffin's name mentioned, is that of Varnish 
in " The Plain-Dealer," which was produced in 1674. At the 
Union in 1682, Griffin took a good position in the amalgamated 
company, and continued on the stage till about 1688, when 
his name disappears from the bills. During this time he 
is not called Captain, but in lyoi the name of Captain Griffin 
appears among the Drury Lane actors. Genest says it is more 
probable that this should be Griffin returned to the stage after 
thirteen years spent in the army, than that Captain Griffin 
should have gone on the stage without having previously been 
connected with it. In this Genest is quite correct, for the anec- 
dote of Goodman and Griffin, which Gibber tells in Chap. XII. 
shows conclusively that Captain Griffin was an actor during 
Goodman's stage-career, which ended certainly before 1690. He 
appears to have finally retired about the beginning of 1708. 
Downes says " Mr. Griffin so ExcelVd in Surly. Sir Edward Bclfond, 
The Plain Dealer, no7ie succeeditig in the 2 former have Equaird him, 



§4 THE LIFE OF 

brated Mrs. Oldfield. Now let us suppose these 
Persons, the Men, for example, to have been all 
eminent Mercers, and the Women as famous Milli- 
ners, can we imagine that merely as such, though 
endow'd with the same natural Understanding, they 
could have been call'd into the same honourable 
Parties of Conversation ? People of Sense and Con- 
dition could not but know it was impossible they 
could have had such various Excellencies on the 
Stage, without having something naturally valuable 
in them : And I will take upon me to affirm, w^ho 
knew them all living, that there was not one of the 
Number who were not capable of supportino- a 
variety of Spirited Conversation, tho' the Stage were 
never to have been the Subject of it. 

That to have trod the Stage has not always been 
thought a Disqualification from more honourable 
Employments; several have had military Commis- 
sions ; Carlisle^ ^siA Wiltshire'' wQrQ both kill'd Cap- 

[nor any] except his Predecessor Mr. Hart tn the tatier" (p. 40). I 
have ventured to supply the two words "nor any" to make clear 
what Downes must have meant. 

' The " Biographia Dramatica " (i. 87) gives an account of 
James Carlile. He was a native of Lancashire, and in his youth 
was an actor ; but he left the stage for the army, and was killed at 
the battle of Aughrim, nth July, 1691. Nothing practically is 
known of his stage career. Downes (p. 39) notes that at the 
Union of the Patents in 1682, "Mr. Mo?tfort and Mr. Carlile, 
were grown to the Maturity of good ActorsT I cannot trace Car- 
lile's name in the bills any later than 1685. 

"^ Wiltshire seems to have been a very useful actor of the 
second rank. In 1685 he also appears for the last time. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 85 

tains; one in King Williams Reduction of /r^/^;2(/; 
and the other in his first War in Flandei^s ; and the 
famous Ben. Johnson, tho' an unsuccessful Actor, was 
afterwards made Poet-Laureat.^ 

To these laudable Distinctions let me add one 
more; that of Publick Applause, which, when truly 
merited, is perhaps one of the most agreeable Grati- 
fications that venial Vanity can feel. A Happiness 
almost peculiar to the Actor, insomuch that the best 
Tragick Writer, however numerous his separate Ad- 
mirers may be, yet, to unite them into one general 
Act of Praise, to receive at once those thundring 
Peals of Approbation which a crouded Theatre 
throws out, he must still call in the Assistance of the 
skilful Actor to raise and partake of them. 

In a Word, 'twas in this flattering Light only, 
though not perhaps so thoroughly consider'd, I look'd 
upon the Life of an Actor when but eighteen Years of 
Age ; nor can you wonder if the Temptations were too 
strong for so warm a Vanity as mine to resist ; but 
whether excusable or not, to the Stage at length I 
came, and it Is from thence, chiefly, your Curiosity, 
if you have any left, is to expect a farther Account of 
me. 

* That Ben Jonson was an unsuccessful actor is gravely doubted 
by Gifford and by his latest editor, Lieut.-Col. Cunningham, who 
give excellent reasons in support of their view. See memoir pre- 
fixed to edition of Jonson, 1870, i. xi. 




CHAPTER IV. 



A short View of the Stage, from the Year 1660 to the Revolution. 
The King's and Duke^s Company united, composed the best Set of 
English Actors yet known. Their several Theatrical Characters. 

THO' I have only promis'd you an Account of 
all the material Occurrences of the Theatre 
during my own Time, yet there was one which hap- 
pen'd not above seven Years before my Admission 
to it, which may be as well worth notice as the first 
great Revolution of it, in which, among numbers, I 
was involv'd. And as the one will lead you into a 
clearer View of the other, it may therefore be pre- 
viously necessary to let you know that 



THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 8^ 

King Chajdes II. at his Restoration granted two 
Patents, one to Sir William Davenant^ and the 
other to Thomas Killigrezv, Esq.,^ and their several 
Heirs and Assigns, for ever, for the forming of two 
distinct Companies of Comedians : The first were 

^ Sir William Davenant was the son of a vintner and innkeeper 
at Oxford. It was said that Shakespeare used frequently to stay 
at the inn, and a story accordingly was manufactured that William 
Davenant was in fact the son of the poet through an amour with 
Mrs. Davenant. But of this there is no shadow of proof. Dave- 
nant went to Oxford, but made no special figure as a scholar, 
winning fame, however, as a poet and dramatist. On the death of 
Ben Jonson in 1637 he was appointed Poet-Laureate, and in 1639 
received a licence from Charles I. to get together a company of 
players. In the Civil War he greatly distinguished himself, and 
was knighted by the King for his bravery. Before the Restoration 
Davenant was permitted by Cromwell to perform some sort of 
theatrical pieces at Rutland House, in Charter-House Yard, 
where "The Siege of Rhodes" was played about 1656. At the 
Restoration a Patent was granted to him in August, 1660, and he 
engaged Rhodes's company of Players, including Betterton, 
Kynaston, Underbill, and Nokes. Another Patent was granted 
to him, dated 15th Januar}', 1663, (see copy of Patent given atite,) 
under which he managed the theatre' in Lincoln's Inn Fields till 
his death in 1668. Davenant's company were called the Duke's 
Players. The changes which were made in the conduct of the 
stage during Davenant's career, such as the introduction of elabo- 
rate scenery and the first appearance of women in plays, make it 
one of the first interest and importance. (See Mr. Joseph Knight's 
Preface to his recent edition of the " Roscius Anglicanus.") 

* Thomas Killigrew (not "Henry" Killigrew, as Cibber erro- 
neously writes) was a very noted and daring humorist. He was a 
faithful adherent of King Charles I., and at the Restoration was 
made a Groom of the Bedchamber. He also received a Patent, 
dated 25th April, 1662, to raise a company of actors to be 
called the King's Players. These acted at the Theatre Royal in 
Drury Lane. Killigrew survived the Union of the two Companies 



88 THE LIFE OF 

call'd the Kings Servants, and acted at the Theatre- 
Royal in Drury-Lane ;^ and the other the Dukes 
Company, who acted at the Duke's Theatre in Dor- 
set-Garden} About ten of the King's Company- 
were on the Royal Houshold- Establishment, having 
each ten Yards of Scarlet Cloth, with a proper quan- 
tity of Lace allow'd them for Liveries ; and in their 
Warrants from the Lord Chamberlain were stiled 
Gentlemen of the Great Chamber.^ Whether the 
like Appointments were extended to the Duke's 
Company, I am not certain ; but they were both in 
high Estimation with the Publick, and so much the 

in 1682, dying on the 19th of March, 1683. He cannot be said 
to have made much mark in theatrical history. The best anec- 
dote of Killigrew is that related by Granger, how he waited on 
Charles II. one day dressed like a Pilgrim bound on a long 
journey. When the King asked him whither he was going, he 
replied, "To Hell, to fetch back Oliver Cromwell to take care 
of England, for his successor takes none at all." 

^ It is curious to note that this theatre, which occupied the same 
site as the present Drury Lane, was sometimes described as Drury 
Lane, sometimes as Covent Garden. 

'^ Should be Lincoln's Inn Fields. Dorset Garden, which was 
situated in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, was not opened till 167 1. 

^ Genest (ii. 302) remarks on this : " How long this lasted does 
not appear — it appears however that it lasted to Queen Anne's 
time, as the alteration of ' Wit without Money ' is dedicated to 
Thomas Newman, Servant to her Majesty, one of the Gentlemen 
of the Great Chamber, and Book-keeper and Prompter to her 
Majesty's Company of Comedians in the Haymarket." Dr. Doran 
in his "Their Majesties' Servants" (1888 edition, iii. 419), says 
that he was informed by Benjamin Webster that Baddeley was the 
last actor who wore the uniform of scarlet and gold prescribed for 
the Gentlemen of the Household, who were patented actors. 




THOMAS BETTERTON, 



I 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 89 

Delight and Concern of the Court, that they were 
not only supported by its being frequently present at 
their publick Presentations, but by its taking cogni- 
zance even of their private Government, insomuch 
that their particular Differences, Pretentions, or 
Complaints were generally ended by the King or 
Duke^ Personal Command or Decision. Besides 
their being thorough Masters of their Art, these 
Actors set forwards with two critical Advantages, 
which perhaps may never happen again in many 
Ages. The one was, their immediate opening after 
the so long Interdiction of Plays during the Civil 
War and the Anarchy that followed it. What eager 
Appetites from so long a Fast must the Guests of 
those Times have had to that high and fresh variety 
of Entertainments which Shakespear'Wa.di left prepared 
for them .'* Never was a Stage so provided ! A hun- 
dred Years are wasted, and another silent Century 
well advanced, and yet what unborn Age shall say 
Shakespear has his equal ! How many shining Actors 
have the warm Scenes of his Genius given to Pos- 
terity ? without being himself in his Action equal to 
his Writing! A strong Proof that Actors, like 
Poets, must be born such. Eloquence and Elocu- 
tion are quite different Talents : Shakespear could 
write Hamlet, but Tradition tells us That the Ghost, 
in the same Play, was one of his best Performances 
as an Actor : Nor is it within the reach of Rule or 
Precept to complete either of them. Instruction, 'tis 
true, may guard them equally against Faults or Ab- 

G 



90 THE LIFE OF 

surdities, but there it stops ; Nature must do the 
rest : To excel in either Art is a self-born Happiness 
which somethinof more than crood Sense must be the 
Mother of. 

The other Advantage I was speaking of is, that 
before the Restoration no Actresses had ever been 
seen upon the English Stage/ The Characters of 
Women on former Theatres were perform'd by Boys, 
or young Men of the most effeminate Aspect. And 
what Grace or Master-strokes of Action can we con- 
ceive such ungain Hoydens to have been capable of? 
This Defect was so well considered by Skakespear, 
that in few of his Plays he has any greater Depen- 
dance upon the Ladies than in the Innocence and 
Simplicity of a Desdemona, an Ophelia, or in the 
short Specimen of a fond and virtuous Po7'-tia. The 
additional Objects then of real, beautiful Women 

^ The question of the identity of the first Enghsh actress is a 
very intricate one. Mr. Percy Fitzgerald, in his " New History 
of the English Stage," seems to incHne to favour Anne Marshall, 
while Mr. Joseph Knight, in his edition of the " Roscius AngH- 
canus," pronounces for Mrs. Coleman. Davies says positively 
that "the first woman actress was the mother of Norris, commonly 
called Jubilee Dicky." Thomas Jordan wrote a Prologue "to 
introduce the first woman that came to act on the stage," but as 
the lady's name is not given, this does not help us. The distinc- 
tion is also claimed for Mrs. Saunderson (afterwards Mrs. Better- 
ton) and Margaret Hughes. But since Mr. Knight has shown 
that the performances in 1656 at Rutland House, where Mrs. 
Coleman appeared, were for money, I do not see that we can 
escape from the conclusion that this lady was the first English 
professional actress. Who the first actress after the Restoration 
was is as yet unsettled. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 9 1 

could not but draw a Proportion of new Admirers to 
the Theatre. We may imagine, too, that these 
Actresses were not ill chosen, when it is well known 
that more than one of them had Charms sufficient at 
their leisure Hours to calm and mollify the Cares of 
Empire.^ Besides these peculiar Advantages, they 
had a private Rule or Agreement, which both Houses 
were happily ty'd down to, which was, that no Play 
acted at one House should ever be attempted at the 
other. All the capital Plays therefore of Shakespear, 
Fletchei^, and Ben. Johnson were divided between 
them by the Approbation of the Court and their own 
alternate Choice.^ So that when Hart ^ was famous 
for Othello, Betterton had no less a Reputation for 
Hamlet. By this Order the Stage was supply'd 
with a greater Variety of Plays than could possibly 
have been shewn had both Companies been em- 
ploy'd at the same time upon the same Play ; which 
Liberty, too, must have occasion 'd such frequent 
Repetitions of 'em, by their opposite Endeavours to 
forestall and anticipate one another, that the best 
Actors in the World must have grown tedious and 
tasteless to the Spectator : For what Pleasure is not 
languid to Satiety ?^ It was therefore one of our 

' Meaning, no doubt, Nell Gwyn and Moll Davis. 

■^ Genest points out (i. 404) that Gibber is not quite accurate 
here. Shakespeare's and Fletcher's plays may have been shared ; 
Jonson's certainly were not. 

^ See memoir of Hart at end of second volume. 

* Genest says that this regulation " might be very proper at the 
first restoration of the stage ; but as a perpetual rule it was absurd. 



92 THE LIFE OF 

greatest Happinesses (during my time of being in 
the Menagement of the Stage) that we had a certain 
Number of select Plays which no other Company 
had the good Fortune to make a tolerable Figure in, 
and consequently could find little or no Account by 
acting them against us. These Plays therefore for 
many Years, by not being too often seen, never fail'd 
to bring us crowded Audiences ; and it was to this 
Conduct we ow'd no little Share of our Prosperity. 
But when four Houses^ are at once (as very lately 
they were) all permitted to act the same Pieces, let 
three of them perform never so ill, when Plays 
come to be so harrass'd and hackney'd out to the 
common People (half of which too, perhaps, would as 
lieve see them at' one House as another) the best 
Actors will soon feel that the Town has enough of 
them. 

I know it is the common Opinion, That the more 
Play-houses the more Emulation ; I grant it ; but 
what has this Emulation ended in ? Why, a daily 

Gibber approves of it, not considering that Betterton could never 
have acted Othello, Brutus, or Hotspur (the very parts for which 
Gibber praises him so much) if there had not been a junction of 
the companies." Bellchambers, in a long note, also contests 
Gibber's opinion. 

' In the season 1735-6, in addition to the two Patent Theatres, 
Drury Lane and Govent Garden, Giffard was playing at Goodman's 
Fields Theatre, and Fielding, with his Great Mogul's Gompany of 
Comedians, occupied the Haymarket. In 1736-7 Giffard played 
at the Lincoln's-Inn-Fields Theatre, and Goodman's Fields was 
unused. The Licensing Act of 1737 closed the two irregular 
houses, leaving only Drury Lane and Govent Garden open. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 93 

Contention which shall soonest surfeit you with the 
best Plays ; so that when what ought to please can 
no longer please, your Appetite is again to be raised 
by such monstrous Presentations as dishonour the 
Taste of a civiliz'd People/ If, indeed, to our 
several Theatres we could raise a proportionable 
Number of o"0od Authors to g^ive them all different 
Employment, then perhaps the Publick might profit 
from their Emulation : But while good Writers are 
so scarce, and undaunted Criticks so plenty, I am 
afraid a good Play and a blazing Star will be equal 
Rarities. This voluptuous Expedient, therefore, of 
indulging the Taste with several Theatres, will 
amount to much the same variety as that of a certain 
Oeconomist, who, to enlarge his Hospitality, would 
have two Puddings and two Legs of Mutton for the 
same Dinner." — But to resume the Thread of my 
History. 

These two excellent Companies were both pros- 
perous for some few Years, 'till their Variety of 
Plays began to be exhausted : Then of course the 
better Actors (which the King's seem to have been 

' Gibber here refers to the Pantomimes, which he deals with at 
some length in Chapter XV. 

■' Fielding ("Champion," 6th May, 1740): "Another Obser- 
vation which I have made on our Author's Similies is, that they 
generally have an Eye towards the Kitchen. Thus,/^^i? 56, Two 
Play-Houses are like two Puddings or two Legs of Mutton. 
224. To plant young Actors is not so easy as to plant Cabbages. To 
which let me add a Metaphor m page 57, where unprofitable Praise 
can hardly give Truth a Soup Maigre." 



94 THE LIFE OF 

allowed) could not fail of drawing the greater 
Audiences. Sir William Davenant, therefore, Master 
of the Duke's Company, to make Head against their 
Success, was forced to add Spectacle and Musick to 
Action ; and to introduce a new Species of Plays, 
since call'd Dramatick Opera's, of which kind were 
the Tempest, Psyche, Circe, and others, all set off 
with the most expensive Decorations of Scenes and 
Habits, with the best Voices and Dancers/ 

This sensual Supply of Sight and Sound coming 
in to the Assistance of the weaker Party, it was no 
Wonder they should grow too hard for Sense and 
simple Nature, when it is consider'd how many more 
People there are, that can see and hear, than think 
and judge. So wanton a Change of the publick 
Taste, therefore, began to fall as heavy upon the 
King's Company as their greater Excellence in 
Action had before fallen upon their Competitors : Of 
which Encroachment upon Wit several good Pro- 
logues in those Days frequently complain'd.^ 

' " Dramatic Operas " seem to have been first produced about 
1672. In 1673 "The Tempest," made into an opera by Shadwell, 
was played at Dorset Garden; " Pysche " followed in the next 
year, and " Circe" in 1677. " Macbeth," as altered by Davenant, 
was produced in 1672, "in the nature of an Opera," as Downes 
])hrases it. 

^ Dryden, in his "Prologue on the Opening of the New House" 
in 1674, writes : — 

'"Twere folly now a stately pile to raise, 

To build a playhouse while you throw down plays ; 

While scenes, machines, and empty operas reign " 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 95 

But alas ! what can Truth avail, when its De- 
pendance is much more upon the Ignorant than the 
sensible Auditor ? a poor Satisfaction, that the due 
Praise given to it must at last sink into the cold 
Comfort of — Latidatur & Alget} Unprofitable 
Praise can hardly give it a Soup maigre. Taste and 
Fashion with us have always had Wings, and fly 
from one publick Spectacle to another so wantonly, 
that I have been inform'd by those who remember it, 
that a famous Puppet-shew'^ in Salisbury Change 
(then standing where Cecil-Street now is) so far dis- 
trest these two celebrated Companies, that they were 
reduced to petition the King for Relief against it : 
Nor ought we perhaps to think this strange, when, 
if I mistake not, Terence himself reproaches the 
Ro7nau Auditors of his Time with the like Fondness 
for the Fiuiambuli, the Rope-dancers.^ Not to dwell 
too long therefore upon that Part of my History 
which I have only collected from oral Tradition, I 

and the Prologue concludes with the lines : — 
" 'Tis to be feared 



That, as a fire the former house o'erthrew. 
Machines and Tempests will destroy the new." 

The allusion in the last line is to the opera of " The Tempest," 
which I have mentioned in the previous note. 
^ " Probitas laudatur et alget." 

Juvenal, i. 74. 
^ In the Prologue to "The Emperor of the Moon," 1687, the 
line occurred : "There's nothing lasting but the Puppet-show." 
^ " Ita populus studio stupidus in funambulo 

Animum occuparat." 

Terence, Prol. to ^^Hecyra" line 4. 



96 THE LIFE OF 

shall content myself with telling you that Mohun ' 
and Hart now growing old (for, above thirty Years 
before this Time, they had severally born the King's 
Commission of Major and Captain in the Civil Wars), 
and the younger Actors, as Goodman^ Clark^ and 
others, being impatient to get into their Parts, and 
growing intractable,* the Audiences too of both 
Houses then falling off, the Patentees of each, by the 
King's Advice, which perhaps amounted to a Com- 
mand, united their Interests and both Companies 
into one, exclusive of all others, in the Year 1682.^ 
This Union was, however, so much in favour of the 
Duke's Company, that Hm'-t left the Stage upon it, 
and Mohun survived not long after. 

One only Theatre being now in Possession of the 
whole Town, the united Patentees imposed their own 

^ See memoir of Michael Mohun at end of second volume. 

* See memoir of Cardell Goodman at end of second volume. 

' Of Clark very little is known. The earliest play in which his 
name is given by Downes is " The Plain-Dealer," which was pro- 
duced at the Theatre Royal in 1674, Clark playing Novel, a part 
of secondary importance. His name appears to Massina in 
" Sophonisba," Hephestion in "Alexander the Great," Dolabella 
in "All for Love," Aquitius in " Mythridates," and (his last re- 
corded part) the Earl of Essex, the principal character in " The 
Unhappy Favourite," Theatre Royal, 1682. After the Union of 
the Companies in 1682 his name does not occur. Bellchambers 
has several trifling errors in the memoir he gives of this actor. 

* Curll ("History of the English Stage," p. 9) says: "The 
Feuds and Animosities of the King's Company were so well im- 
proved, as to produce an Union betwixt the two Patents." 

^ Gibber gives the year as 1684, but this is so obviously a slip 
that I venture to correct the text. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 97 

Terms upon the Actors ; for the Profits of acting 
were then divided into twenty Shares, ten of which 
went to the Proprietors, and the other Moiety to 
the principal Actors, in such Sub-divisions as their 
different Merit might pretend to. These Shares of 
the Patentees were promiscuously sold out to Money- 
making Persons, call'd Adventurers,^ who, tho' utterly 
ignorant of Theatrical Affairs, were still admitted to 
a proportionate Vote in the Menagement of them ; 
all particular Encouragements to Actors were by 
them, of Consequence, look'd upon as so many Sums 
deducted from their private Dividends, While 
therefore the Theatrical Hive had so many Drones 
in it, the labouring Actors, sure, were under the 
highest Discouragement, if not a direct State of 
Oppression. Their Hardship will at least appear in 
a much stronger Light when compar'd to our later 
Situation, who with scarce half their Merit succeeded 
to be Sharers under a Patent upon five times easier 
Conditions : For as they had but half the Profits 
divided among ten or more of them ; we had three 
fourths of the whole Profits divided only among three 
of us : And as they might be said to have ten Task- 
masters over them, we never had but one Assistant 
Menager (not an Actor) join'd with us ;^ who, by the 

' Genest (ii. 62) remarks : "The theatre in Dorset Garden had 
been built by subscription — the subscribers were called Adven- 
turers- — of this Gibber seems totally ignorant — that there were any 
new Adventurers, added to the original number, rests solely on his 
authority, and in all probability he is not correct." 

^ Gibber afterwards relates the connection of Owen Swiney, 



gS THE LIFE OF 

Crown's Indulgence, was sometimes too of our own 
chusing. Under this heavy Estabhshment then 
groan'd this United Company when I was first 
admitted into the lowest Rank of it. How they 
came to be relieved by King Williams Licence in 
1695, how they were again dispersed early in Queen 
Alines Reign, and from what Accidents Fortune 
took better care of Us, their unequal Successors, will 
be told in its Place : But to prepare you for the 
opening so large a Scene of their History, methinks 
I ought (in Justice to their Memory too) to give you 
such particular Characters of their Theatrical Merit 
as in my plain Judgment they seem'd to deserve. 
Presuming then that this Attempt may not be dis- 
agreeable to the Curious or the true Lovers of the 
Theatre, take it without farther Preface. 

In the Year 1690, when I first came into this 
Company, the principal Actors then at the Head of it 
were. 

Of Men. Of Women. 

Mr. Bettei'-ton, Mrs. Better ton, 

Mr. Monfort, Mrs. Bamy, 

Mr. Ky 71 as ton, Mrs. Leigh, 

Mr. Sandford, Mrs. Butler, 

Mr. Nokes, Mrs. Monfort, and 

Mr. Under kil, and Mrs. Braceoirdle. 

Mr. Leigh. 

These Actors whom I have selected from their 

William Collier, M.P., and Sir Richard Steele, with himself and 
his actor-partners. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 99 

Cotemporaries were all original Masters in their 
different Stile, not meer auricular Imitators of one 
another, which commonly is the highest Merit of the 
middle Rank, but Self-judges of Nature, from whose 
various Lights they only took their true Instruction. 
If in the following Account of them I may be 
oblieed to hint at the Faults of others, I never mean 
such Observations should extend to those who are 
now in Possession of the Stage ; for as I design not 
my Memoirs shall come down to their Time, I would 
not lie under the Imputation of speaking in their 
Disfavour to the Publick, whose Approbation they 
must depend upon for Support.^ But to my Purpose. 
Betterton was an Actor, as Skakespear was an 
Author, both without Competitors ! form'd for the 
mutual Assistance and Illustration of each others 
Genius ! How Skakespear wrote, all Men who have 
a Taste for Nature may read and know — but with 
what higher Rapture would he still be I'-ead could 
they conceive how Betterton playd him ! Then 
might they know the one was born alone to spea:k 
what the other only knew to write ! Pity it is that 
the momentary Beauties flowing from an harmonious 
Elocution cannot, like those of Poetry, be their own 
Record ! That the animated Graces of the Player 
can live no lonofer than the instant Breath and 



c> 



^ The only one of Gibber's contemporaries of any note who was 
alive when the "Apology" was published, was Benjamin Johnson. 
This admirable comedian died in August, 1742, in his seventy- 
seventh year, having played as late as the end of May of that year. 



lOO THE LIFE OF 

Motion that presents them, or at best can but faintly 
ghmmer through the Memory or imperfect Attes- 
tation of a few surviving Spectators. Could how 
Betterton spoke be as easily known as what he 
spoke, then might you see the Muse of Shakespear 
in her Triumph, with all her Beauties in their best 
Array rising into real Life and charming her Be- 
holders. But alas ! since all this is so far out of the 
reach of Description, how shall I shew you Betterton f 
Should I therefore tell you that all the Othellos, 
Hamlets, Hotspitrs, Mackbeths, and Brutus^ whom 
you may have seen since his Time, have fallen far 
short of him; this still would give you no Idea of 
his particular Excellence. Let us see then what a 
particular Comparison may do ! whether that may 
yet draw him nearer to you ? 

You have seen a Hamlet perhaps, who, on the 
first Appearance of his Father's Spirit, has thrown 
himself into all the straining Vociferation requisite to 
express Rage and Fury, and the House has thunder'd 
with Applause ; tho' the mis-guided Actor was all 
the while (as Shakespear terms it) tearing a Passion 

into Rags ^ 1 am the more bold to offer you this 

particular Instance, because the late Mr. Addison, 
while I sate by him to see this Scene acted, made 

' The actor pointed at is, no doubt, Wilks. In the last chapter 
of this work Gibber, in giving the theatrical character of Wilks, 
says of his Hamlet : " I own the Half of what he spoke was as 
painful to my Ear, as every Line that came from Betterton was 
charming." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. lOI 



the same Observation, asking me, with some Surprize, 
if I thought Hamlet should be in so violent a Passion 
with the Ghost, which, tho' it might have astonish'd, 
it had not provok'd him ? for you may observe that 
in this beautiful Speech the Passion never rises be- 
yond an almost breathless Astonishment, or an Im- 
patience, limited by filial Reverence, to enquire into 
the suspected Wrongs that may have rais'd him from 
his peaceful Tomb ! and a Desire to know what a 
Spirit so seemingly distrest might wish or enjoin a 
sorrowful Son to execute towards his future Quiet in 
the Grave ? This was the Light into which Betterton 
threw this Scene ; which he open'd with a Pause of 
mute Amazement! then rising slowly to a solemn, 
trembling Voice, he made the Ghost equally terrible 
to the Spectator as to himself!^ and in the descriptive 
Part of the natural Emotions which the ghastly 
Vision gave him, the boldness of his Expostulation 
was still govern'd by Decency, manly, but not brav- 
ino- ; his Voice never rising into that seeming Outrage 
or wild Defiance of what he naturally rever'd.^ But 
alas ! to preserve this medium, between mouthing 

^ Barton Booth, who was probably as great in the part of the 
Ghost as Betterton was in Hamlet, said, " When I acted the Ghost 
with Betterton, instead of my awing him, he terrified me. But 
divinity hung round that man !" — " Dram. Misc.," iii. 32. 

^ " The Laureat " repeats the eulogium of a gentleman who had 
seen Betterton play Hamlet, and adds : " And yet, the same 
Gentleman assured me, he has seen Mr. Betterton, more than 
once, play this Character to an Audience of twenty Pounds, or 
under" (p. 32). 



I02 THE LIFE OF 

and meaning too little, to keep the Attention more 
pleasingly awake by a temper'd Spirit than by meer 
Vehemence of Voice, is of all the Master-strokes of 
an Actor the most difficult to reach. In this none 
yet have equall'd Betterton. But I am unwilling to 
shew his Superiority only by recounting the Errors 
of those who now cannot answer to them, let their 
farther Failings therefore be forgotten ! or rather, 
shall I in some measure excuse them ? For I am 
not yet sure that they might not be as much owing 
to the false Judgment of the Spectator as the Actor. 
While the Million are so apt to be transported when 
the Drum of their Ear is so roundly rattled ; while 
they take the Life of Elocution to lie in the Strength 
of the Lungs, it is no wonder the Actor, whose end is 
Applause, should be also tempted at this easy rate to 
excite it. Shall I go a little farther .-^ and allow that 
this Extreme is more pardonable than its opposite 
Error ? I mean that dangerous Affectation of the 
Monotone, or solemn Sameness of Pronounciation, 
which, to my Ear, is insupportable ; for of all Faults 
that so frequently pass upon the Vulgar, that of 
Flatness will have the fewest Admirers. That this 
is an Error of ancient standing seems evident by 
what Hamlet says, in his Instructions to the Players, 
viz. 

Be not too tame, neither, 8ic. 

The Actor, doubtless, is as strongly ty'd down to 
the Rules of IIo7'ace as the Writer. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. IO3 

Si vis me flere, dolendum est 
Primum ipsi tibi ^ 

He that feels not himself the Passion he would raise, 
will talk to a sleeping Audience : But this never was 
the Fault of Betterton; and it has often amaz'd me 
to see those who soon came after him throw out, in 
some Parts of a Character, a just and graceful Spirit 
which Betterton himself could not but have applauded. 
And yet in the equally shining Passages of the same 
Character have heavily dragg'd the Sentiment along 
like a dead Weight, with a long-ton'd Voice and 
absent Eye, as if they had fairly forgot what they 
were about : If you have never made this Observa- 
tion, I am contented you should not know where to 
apply it.^ 

A farther Excellence in Bette^'ton was, that he 
could vary his Spirit to the different Characters he 
acted. Those wild impatient Starts, that fierce and 
flashing Fire, which he threw into Hotspui^, never 
came from the unruffled Temper of his Brutus (for 
I have more than once seen a Brutus as warm as 
Hotspur^ : when the Betterton BrtitiLs was provok'd 
in his Dispute with Cassius, his Spirit flew only to 
his Eye ; his steady Look alone supply'd that Terror 

' Ars Poetica, 102. This is the much discussed question of 
Diderot's " Paradoxe sur le Comedien," which has recently been 
revived by Mr. Henry Irving and M. Coquelin, and has formed 
the subject of some interesting studies by Mr. WilHam Archer. 

^ This is doubtless directed at Booth, who was naturally of an 
indolent disposition, and seems to have been, on occasions, apt to 
drag through a part. 



I04 THE LIFE OF 

which he disdain'd an Intemperance in his Voice 
should rise to. Thus, with a settled Dignity of 
Contempt, like an unheeding Rock he repelled upon 
himself the Foam of Cassius. Perhaps the very- 
Words of Shakespear will better let you into my 
Meaninof : 

Must I give way and room to yotir rash Choler'^ 
Shall I be fjnghted when a Madman stares ? 

And a little after, 

There is no Tei^'or^ Cassius, in your Looks ! 8ic. 

Not but in some part of this Scene, where he re- 
proaches Cassius, his Temper is not under this Sup- 
pression, but opens into that Warmth which becomes 
a Man of Virtue ; yet this is that Hasty Spark of 
Anpfer which Brutus himself endeavours to excuse. 

But with whatever strength of Nature we see the 
Poet shew at once the Philosopher and the Heroe, 
yet the Image of the Actor's Excellence will be still 
imperfect to you unless Language could put Colours 
in our Words to paint the Voice with. 

Et, si vis similem pijigere, pinge sonum} is enjoyn- 
ing an impossibility. The most that a Vandyke can 
arrive at, is to make his Portraits of great Persons 
seem to think ; a Shakespear goes farther yet, and 
tells you what his Pictures thought ; a Betteidon steps 
beyond 'em both, and calls them from the Grave to 
breathe and be themselves again in Feature, Speech, 

' Ausonius, ii, 8 {Epigrain. xi.). 




BENJAMIN JOHNSON 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. IO5 

and Motion. When the skilful Actor shews you all 
these Powers at once united, and gratifies at once 
your Eye, your Ear, your Understanding : To con- 
ceive the Pleasure rising from such Harmony, you 
must have been present at it ! 'tis not to be told 
you ! 

There cannot be a stronq-er Proof of the Charms 
of harmonious Elocution than the many even unnatural 
Scenes and Flights of the false Sublime it has lifted 
into Applause. In what Raptures have I seen an 
Audience at the furious Fustian and turgid Rants in 
Nat. Lees Alexandej^ the Great ! For though I 
can allow this Play a few great Beauties, yet it is not 
without its extravagant Blemishes. Every Play of 
the same Author has more or less of them. Let me 
give you a Sample from this. Alexander, in a full 
crowd of Courtiers, without being occasionally call'd 
or provok'd to it, falls into this Rhapsody of Vain- 
glory. 

Can none remember f Yes, I know all must I 

And therefore they shall know it agen. 

When Glory, like the dazzling Eagle, stood 
Perch! don my Beaver, hi the Granic Flood, 
When Fortune s Self my Standard trembling bore. 
And the pale Fates stood frighted on the Shore, 
When the Immortals on the Billows rode, 
And I myself appeal^' d the leading God} 

^ "Alexander the Great; or, the Rival Queens," act ii. sc. i. 

II 



I06 THE LIFE OF 

When these flowing Numbers came from the Mouth 
of a Bettcrton the Multitude no more desired Sense 
to them than our musical Connoisseurs think it essen- 
tial in the celebrate Airs of an Italian Opera. Does 
not this prove that there is very near as much En- 
chantment in the well-o-overn'd Voice of an Actor as 
in the sweet Pipe of an Eunuch ? If I tell you there 
was no one Tragedy, for many Years, more in favour 
with the Town than Alexander, to what must we 
impute this its command of publick Admiration ? 
Not to its intrinsick Merit, surely, if it swarms with 
passages like this I have shewn you ! If this Passage 
has Merit, let us see what Figure it would make upon 
Canvas, what sort of Picture would rise from it. If 
Le Bi'-un, who was famous for painting the Battles of 
this Heroe, had seen this lofty Description, what one 
Image could he have possibly taken from It ? In 
what Colours would he have shewn us Glory per cJid 
upon a Beaver? How would he have drawn Forttute 
trembling? Or, indeed, what use could he have 
made oi pale Fates or Immortals riding upon Billows, 
with this blustering God of his own making at the 
head of them ? ^ Where, then, must have lain the 
Charm that once made the Publick so partial to this 

^ Bellchambers notes on this passage : " The criticisms of 
Gibber upon a literary subject are hardly worth the trouble of 
confuting, and yet it may be mentioned that Bishop Warburton 
adduced these lines as containing not only the most subhme, but 
the most judicious imagery that poetry can conceive. If Le Brun, 
or any other artist, could not succeed in pourtraying the terrors of 
fortune, it conveys, perhaps, the highest possible compliment to 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. IO7 

Tragedy ? Why plainly, in the Grace and Harmony 
of the Actor's Utterance. For the Actor himself is 
not accountable for the false Poetry of his Author ; 
That the Hearer is to judge of; if it passes upon 
him, the Actor can have no Quarrel to it ; who, if 
the Periods given him are round, smooth, spirited, 
and high-sounding, even in a false Passion, must 
throw out the same Fire and Grace as may be re- 
quired in one justly rising from Nature ; where those 
his Excellencies will then be only more pleasing in 
proportion to the Taste of his Hearer. And I am 
of opinion that to the extraordinary Success of this 
very Play we may impute the Corruption of so many 
Actors and Tragick Writers, as were immediately 
misled by it. The unskilful Actor who imagin'd all 
the Merit of delivering those blazing Rants lay only 
in the Strength and strain'd Exertion of the Voice, 
began to tear his Lungs upon every false or slight 
Occasion to arrive at the same Applause. And it is 
from hence I date our having seen the same Reason 
prevalent for above fifty Years. Thus equally mis- 
guided, too, many a barren-brain' d Author has 
stream'd into a frothy flowing Style, pompously 

rolling into sounding Periods signifying roundly 

nothing ; of which Number, in some of my former 

the powers of Lee, to admit that he has mastered a difificuUy 
beyond the most daring aspirations of an accompHshed painter." 
With all respect to Warburton and Bellchambers, I cannot help 
remarking that this last sentence seems to me perilously like 
nonsense. 



I08 THE LIFE OF 

Labours, I am something more than suspicious that 
I may myself have made one. But to keep a Httle 
closer to Betterton. 

When this favourite Play I am speaking of, from 
its being too frequently acted, was worn out, and 
came to be deserted by the Town, upon the sudden 
Death of Monfort, who had play'd Alexander with 
Success for several Years, the Part was given to 
Betterton, which, under this great Disadvantage of 
the Satiety it had given, he immediately reviv'd with 
so new a Lustre that for three Days together it fiU'd 
the House ; ^ and had his then declining Strength 
been equal to the Fatigue the Action gave him, it 
probably might have doubled its Success ; an un- 
common Instance of the Power and intrinsick Merit 
of an Actor. This I mention not only to prove what 
irresistable Pleasure may arise from a judicious Elo- 
cution, with scarce Sense to assist it ; but to shew 
you too, that tho' Betterton never wanted Fire and 
Force when his Character demanded it ; yet, where 
it was not demanded, he never prostituted his Power 
to the low Ambition of a false Applause. And fur- 
ther, that when, from a too advanced Age, he resigned 
that toilsome Part of Alexander, the Play for many 
Years after never was able to impose upon the Pub- 
lick ; " and I look upon his so particularly support- 

' I can find no record of this revival, nor am I aware that any 
other authority than Gibber mentions it. I am unable therefore 
even to guess at a date. 

^ In 1706, in Betterton's own company at the Haymarket 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. IO9 

ing the false Fire and Extravagancies of that Cha- 
racter to be a more surprizing Proof of his Skill 
than his being eminent in those of Shakespear ; be- 
cause there, Truth and Nature coming to his Assis- 
tance, he had not the same Difficulties to combat, and 
consequently we must be less amaz'd at his Success 
where we are more able to account for it. 

Notwithstanding the extraordinary Power he 
shew'd in blowing Alexander once more into a blaze 
of Admiration, Betterton had so just a sense of what 
was true or false Applause, that I have heard him 
say, he never thought any kind of it equal to an atten- 
tive Silence ; that there were many ways of deceiving 
an Audience into a loud one ; but to keep them 
husht and quiet was an Applause which only Truth 
and Merit could arrive at : Of which Art there never 
was an equal Master to himself. From these various 
Excellencies, he had so full a Possession of the 
Esteem and Regard of his Auditors, that upon his 
Entrance into every Scene he seem'd to seize upon 
the Eyes and Ears of the Giddy and Inadvertent! 
To have talk'd or look'd another way would then 
have been thought Insensibility or Ignorance.^ In 
all his Soliloquies of moment, the strong Intelligence 
of his Attitude and Aspect drew you into such an 
impatient Gaze and eager Expectation, that you 

Verbruggen played Alexander. At Drury Lane, in 1704, Wilks 
had played the part. 

^ Anthony Aston says that his voice " enforced universal atten- 
tion even from the Fops and Orange girls." 



I lO THE LIFE OF 

almost imblb'd the Sentiment with your Eye before 
the Ear could reach it. 

As Betterton is the Centre to which all my Obser- 
vations upon Action tend, you will give me leave, 
under his Character, to enlarge upon that Head. In 
the just Delivery of Poetical Numbers, particularly 
where the Sentiments are pathetick, it is scarce cre- 
dible upon how minute an Article of Sound depends 
their greatest Beauty or Inaffection. The Voice of 
a Singer is not more strictly ty'd to Time and Tune, 
than that of an Actor in Theatrical Elocution : ^ The 
least Syllable too long or too slightly dwelt upon in 
a Period depreciates it to nothing ; which very Syl- 
lable if rightly touch'd shall, like the heightening 
Stroke of Light from a Master's Pencil, give Life 

* Anthony Aston says of Mrs. Barry : " Neither she, nor any of 
the Actors of those Times, had any Tone in their Speaking, (too 
much, lately, in Use.) " But the line of criticism which Gibber 
takes up here would lead to the conclusion that Aston is not 
strictly accurate ; and, moreover, I can scarcely imagine how, if 
these older actors used no "tone," the employment of it should 
have been so general as it certainly was a few years after Better- 
ton's death. Victor ("History," ii. 164) writes of " the good old 
Manner of singing and quavering out their tragic Notes," and on 
the same page mentions Gibber's " quavering Tragedy Tones." 
My view, also, is confirmed by the facts that in the preface to 
" The Fairy Queen," 1692, it is said: "he must be a very igno- 
rant Player, who knows not there is a Musical Gadence in speak- 
ing ; and that a Man may as well speak out of Tune, as sing out 
of Tune ; " and that Aaron Hill, in his dedication of " The Fatal 
Vision," 1 7 16, reprobates the " affected, vicious, and unnatural tone 
of voice, so common on the stage at that time." See Genest, iv. 16- 
17. An admirable description of this method of reciting is given 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I I I 

and Spirit to the whole. I never heard a Line in 
Tragedy come from Betterton wherein my Judgment, 
my Ear, and my Imagination were not fully satisfy'd; 
which, since his Time, I cannot equally say of any 
one Actor whatsoever : Not but it is possible to be 
much his Inferior, with great Excellencies; which I 
shall observe in another Place. Had it been practi- 
cable to have ty'd down the clattering Hands of all 
the ill judges who were commonly the Majority 
of an Audience, to what amazing Perfection might 
the English Theatre have arrived with so just 
an Actor as Betterton at the Head of it! If what 
was Truth only could have been applauded, how 
many noisy Actors had shook their Plumes with 
shame, who, from the injudicious Approbation of the 
Multitude, have bawl'd and strutted in the place of 
Merit ? If therefore the bare speaking Voice has such 
Allurements in it, how much less ought we to wonder, 
however we may lament, that the sweeter Notes of 
Vocal Musick should so have captivated even the 

by Cumberland (" Memoirs," 2nd edition, i. 80) : " Mrs. Gibber 
in a key, high-pitched but sweet withal, sung, or rather recitatived 
Rowe's harmonious strain, something in the manner of the Impro- 
visatories : it was so extremely wanting in contrast, that, though it 
did not wound the ear, it wearied it." Cumberland is writing of 
Mrs. Cibber in the earlier part of her career (1746), when the 
teaching of her husband's father, Colley Cibber, influenced her 
acting : no doubt Garrick, who exploded the old way of speaking, 
made her ultimately modify her style. Yet as she was, even in 
1746, a very distinguished pathetic actress, we are forced to the 
conclusion that the old style must have been more effective than 
we are disposed to believe. 



I I 2 THE LIFE OF 

politer World into an Apostacy from Sense to an 
Idolatry of Sound. Let us enquire from whence this 
Enchantment rises. I am afraid it may be too natu- 
rally accounted for : For when we complain that the 
finest Musick, purchas'd at such vast Expence, is so 
often thrown away upon the most miserable Poetry, 
we seem not to consider, that when the Movement of 
the Air and Tone of the Voice are exquisitely harmo- 
nious, tho' we regard not one Word of what we hear, 
yet the Power of the Melody is so busy in the Heart, 
that we naturally annex Ideas to it of our own Crea- 
tion, and, in some sort, become our selves the Poet 
to the Composer ; and what Poet is so dull as not to 
be charm'd with the Child of his own Fancy ? So 
that there is even a kind of Language in agreeable 
Sounds, which, like the Aspect of Beauty, without 
Words speaks and plays with the Imagination. 
While this Taste therefore is so naturally prevalent, 
I doubt to propose Remedies for it were but giving 
Laws to the Winds or Advice to Inamorato's : And 
however gravely we may assert that Profit ought 
always to be inseparable from the Delight of the 
Theatre ; nay, admitting that the Pleasure would be 
heighten'd by the uniting them ; yet, while Instruc- 
tion is so little the Concern of the Auditor, how can 
we hope that so choice a Commodity will come to a 
Market where there is so seldom a Demand for it ? 

It is not to the Actor, therefore, but to the vitiated 
and low Taste of the Spectator, that the Corruptions 
of the Stage (of what kind soever) have been owing. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. II3 

If the Publick, by whom they must Hve, had Spirit 
enouoh to discountenance and declare aorainst all the 
Trash and Fopperies they have been so frequently 
fond of, both the Actors and the Authors, to the 
best of their Power, must naturally have serv'd their 

daily Table with sound and wholesome Diet.^ 

But I have not yet done with my Article of Elocution. 

As we have sometimes great Composers of Musick 
who cannot sing, we have as frequently great Writers 
that cannot read ; and though without the nicest Ear 
no Man can be Master of Poetical Numbers, yet the 
best Ear in the World will not always enable him to 
pronounce them. Of this Truth Dryden, our first 
great Master of Verse and Harmony, was a strong 
Instance : When he brought his Play of Amphyt7don 
to the Stage,^ I heard him give it his first Reading 
to the Actors, in which, though it is true he deliver'd 
the plain Sense of every Period, yet the whole was 
in so cold, so flat, and unaffecting a manner, that I 
am afraid of not being believ'd when I afiirm it. 

On the contrary, Lee, far his inferior in Poetry, 
was so pathetick a Reader of his own Scenes, that I 
have been inform'd by an Actor who was present, 

^ As Dr. Johnson puts it in his famous Prologue (1747) : — 

" Ah ! let no Censure term our Fate our Choice, 
The Stage but echoes back the public Voice ; 
The Drama's Laws the Drama's Patrons give, 
For we, that live to please, must please to live." 

^ " Amphytrion " was played in 1690. The Dedication is dated 
24th October, 1690. 



I 14 THE LIFE OF 

that while Lee was reading to Major Mo/mn at a 
Rehearsal, Mo/mn, in the Warmth of his Admiration, 
threw down his Part and said, Unless I were able to 
play it as well as you 7^ead it, to what purpose should 
I undertake it? And yet this very Author, whose 
Elocution rais'd such Admiration in so capital an 
Actor, when he attempted to be an Actor himself, 
soon quitted the Stage inran honest Despair of ever 
making any profitable Figure there. ^ From all this 
I would infer, That let our Conception of what we 
are to speak be ever so just, and the Ear ever so 
true, yet, when we are to deliver it to an Audience 
(I will leave Fear out of the question) there must 
go along with the whole a natural Freedom and be- 
cominof Grace, which is easier to conceive than to 
describe : For without this inexpressible Somewhat 
the Performance will come out oddly disguis'd, or 
somewhere defectively unsurprizing to the Hearer. 
Of this Defect, too, I will give you yet a stranger 
Instance, which you will allow Fear could not be the 
Occasion of : If you remember Estcourt^ you must 
have known that he was long enough upon the Stage 
not to be under the least Restraint from Fear in his 
Performance : This Man was so amazing and extra- 

^ Downes ("Roscius Anglicanus," p. 34) relates Lee's mis- 
adventure, which he attributes to stage-fright. He says of Otway 
the poet, that on his first appearance ^^ the full House ptit him to 
such a Sweat and Tremendous Agony, being das Jit, spoilt him for an 
Actor. Mr. Nat. Lee, had the same Fate in Acting Duncan //; 
Macbeth, ruhid him for an Actor too." 

^ See memoir of Estcourt at end of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. II5 

ordinary a Mimick, that no Man or Woman, from the 
Coquette to the Privy-Counsellor, ever mov'd or 
spoke before him, but he could carry their Voice, 
Look, Mien, and Motion, instantly into another 
Company : I have heard him make long Harangues 
and form various Arguments, even in the manner of 
thinking of an eminent Pleader at the Bar,^ with 
every the least Article and Singularity of his Utter- 
ance so perfectly imitated, that he was the very alter 
ipse, scarce to be distinguish'd from his Original. 
Yet more ; I have seen upon the Margin of the 
written Part of Falstaff which he acted, his own 
Notes and Observations upon almost every Speech of 
it, describing the true Spirit of the Humour, and with 
what Tone of Voice, Look, and Gesture, each of 
them ought to be delivered. Yet in his Execution 
upon the Stage he seem'd to have lost all those just 
Ideas he had form'd of it, and almost thro' the 
Character labour'd under a heavy Load of Flatness : 
In a word, with all his Skill in Mimickry and Know- 
ledge of what ought to be done, he never upon the 
Stage could bring it truly into Practice, but was upon 
the whole a languid, unaffecting Actor.^ After I 

^ It will be remembered that the Elder Mathews, the most 
extraordinary mimic of modern times, had this same power in 
great perfection. See his "Memoirs," iii. 153-156. 

^ Gibber has been charged with gross unfairness to Estcourt, 
and his unfavourable estimate of him has been attributed to envy; 
but Estcourt's ability seems to have been at least questionable. 
This matter will be found treated at some length in the memoir 
of Estcourt in the Appendix to this work. 



Il6 THE LIFE OF 

have shewn you so many necessary Qualifications, 
not one of which can be spar'd in true Theatrical 
Elocution, and have at the same time prov'd that 
with the Assistance of them all united, the whole 
may still come forth defective ; what Talents shall 
we say will infallibly form an Actor ? This I confess 
is one of Nature's Secrets, too deep for me to dive 
into ; let us content our selves therefore with affirm- 
ing". That Genius, which Nature only gives, only can 
complete him. This Geiiius then was so strong in 
Beiierlou, that it shone out in every Speech and 
Motion of him. Yet Voice and Person are such 
necessary Supports to it, that by the Multitude 
they have been preferr'd to Genius itself, or at least 
often mistaken for it. Betierton had a Voice of that 
kind which gave more Spirit to Terror than to the 
softer Passions ; of more Strength than Melody.^ 
The Rage and Jealousy of Othello became him better 
than the Sighs and Tenderness of Castalio : ^ For 
though in Castalio he only excell'd others, in Othello 
he excell'd himself ; which you will easily believe 
when you consider that, in spite of his Complexion, 
Othello has more natural Beauties than the best 
Actor can find in all the Magazine of Poetry to 
animate his Power and delight his Judgment with. 

The Person of this excellent Actor was suitable to 
his Voice, more manly than sweet, not exceeding the 

^ " His voice was low and grumbling." — Anthony Aston. 
^ In Otway's tragedy of " The Orphan," produced at Dorset 
Garden in 1680, Betterton was the original Castalio. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I I 7 

middle Stature, inclining to the corpulent ; of a 
serious and penetrating Aspect ; his Limbs nearer 
the athletick than the delicate Proportion ; yet how- 
ever form'd, there arose from the Harmony of the 
whole a commanding Mien of Majesty, which the 
fairer-fac'd or (as Shakespear calls 'em) the curled 
Darlings of his Time ever wanted something to be 
equal Masters of. There was some Years ago to be 
had, almost in every Print-shop, a Metzotinto from 
Kneller, extremely like him.^ 

In all I have said oi Bettei'ton, I confine myself to 
the Time of his Strength and highest Power in 
Action, that you may make Allowances from what 
he was able to execute at Fifty, to what you might 
have seen of him at past Seventy ; for tho' to the 
last he was without his Equal, he might not then be 
equal to his former Self; yet so far was he from 
being ever overtaken, that for many Years after his 
Decease I seldom saw any of his Parts in Shake- 
spear supply'd by others, but it drew from me the 
Lamentation of Ophelia upon Hamlefs, being unlike 
what she had seen him. 

-Ah ! woe is me ! 



T'have seen what I have seen, see ivhat I see ! 

The last Part this great Master of his Profession 
acted was Melantius in the Maid's Tragedy, for his 
own Benefit ;^ when being suddenly seiz'd by the 

' See memoir of Betterton at end of second volume. 
'■' 13th April, 1710. 



Il8 THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 

Gout, he submitted, by extraordinary Applications, to 
have his Foot so far reliev'd that he might be able 
to walk on the Stage in a Slipper, rather than wholly 
disappoint his Auditors. He was observ'd that Day 
to have exerted a more than ordinary Spirit, and 
met with suitable Applause ; but the unhappy Conse- 
quence of tampering with his Distemper was, that it 
flew into his Head, and kill'd him in three Days, (I 
think) in the seventy-fourth Year of his Age.^ 

I once thought to have fill'd up my Work with a 
select Dissertation upon Theatrical Action,^ but I 
find, by the Digressions I have been tempted to make 
in this Account of Betterton, that all I can say upon 
that Head will naturally fall in, and possibly be less 
tedious if dispers'd among the various Characters of 
the particular Actors I have promis'd to treat of ; I 
shall therefore make use of those several Vehicles, 
which you will find waiting in the next Chapter, to 
carry you thro' the rest of the Journey at your 
Leisure. 

' In the "Tatler," No. 167, in which the famous criticism of 
Betterton's excellencies is given, his funeral is stated to have taken 
place on 2nd May, 17 10. 

^ I do not know whether Gibber in making this remark had in 
view Gildon's Life of Betterton, in which there are twenty pages 
of memoir to one hundred and fifty of dissertation on acting. 



it |lli'''lllllt|illl;Jl|llk| 




CHAPTER V. 

The Theatrical Characters of the Principal Actors in the Year 1690, 

continued. 

A few Words to Critical Auditors. 

THO', as I have before observ'd, Women were not 
admitted to the Staofe 'till the Return of King; 
Charles, yet it could not be so suddenly supply'd 
with them but that there was still a Necessity, for 
some time, to put the handsomest young Men into 
Petticoats;^ which ICynasto7t wtis then said to have 

' This seems to have been done to a very limited extent. The 
first unquestionable date on which, after 1660, women appeared 
is 3rd January, 1661, when Pepys saw "The Beggar's Bush" at 
the Theatre, that is, Killigrew's house, and notes, " and here the 



I20 THE LIFE OF 

worn with Success ; particularly in the Part of Evadne 
in the Maid's Tragedy, which I have heard him 
speak of, and which calls to my Mind a ridiculous 
Distress that arose from these sort of Shifts which 

the Stage was then put to. The King coming a 

little before his usual time to a Tragedy, found the 
Actors not ready to begin, when his Majesty, not 
chusing to have as much Patience as his good Sub- 
jects, sent to them to know the Meaning of it ; upon 
which the Master of the Company came to the Box, 
and rightly judging that the best Excuse for their 
Default would be the true one, fairly told his Majesty 
that the Queen was not shavd yet : The King, whose 
orood Humour lov'd to lauorh at a Test as well as to 
make one, accepted the Excuse, which serv'd to 
divert him till the male Queen cou'd be effeminated. 
In a word, Kynaston at that time was so beautiful a 
Youth that the Ladies of Quality prided themselves 

first time that ever I saw women come upon the stage." At the 
same theatre he had seen the same play on 20th November, 1660, 
the female parts being then played by men. Thomas Jordan 
wrote " A Prologue, to introduce the first woman that came to act on 
the stage, in the tragedy called The Moor of Venice " (quoted by 
Malone, " Shakespeare," 182 1, iii. 128), and Malone supposes 
justly as I think, that this was on 8th December, 1660 ; on which 
date, in all probability, the first woman appeared on the stage after 
the Restoration. Who she was we do not know. See a^ite, p, 90. 
On 7th January, 1661, Kynaston played Epicoene in "The Silent 
Woman," and on 12th January, 1661, Pepys saw "The Scornful 
Lady," " now done by a woman." On the 4th of the same month 
Pepys had seen the latter play with a man in the chief part, so 
that it is almost certain that the " boy-actresses " disappeared 
about the beginning of 1661. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 12 1 

in taking him with them in their Coaches to Hyde- 
Park in his Theatrical Habit, after the Play ; which 
in those Days they might have sufficient time to do, 
because Plays then were us'd to begin at foura-Clock : 
The Hour that People of the same Rank are now 
going to Dinner. Of this Truth I had the Curio- 
sity to enquire, and had it confirm'd from his own 
Mouth in his advanc'd Age : And indeed, to the last 
of him, his Handsomeness was very little abated ; 
even at past Sixty his Teeth were all sound, white, 
and even, as one would wish to see in a reienine 
Toast of Twenty. He had something of a formal 
Gravity in his Mien, which was attributed to the 
stately Step he had been so early confin'd to, in 
a female Decency. But even that in Characters of 
Superiority had its proper Graces ; it misbecame 
him not in the Part of Leon, in Fletchers Rtde a 
Wife, &c. which he executed with a determin'd 
Manliness and honest Authority well worth the best 
Actor's Imitation. He had a piercing Eye, and in 
Characters of heroick Life a quick imperious Vivacity 
in his Tone of Voice that painted the Tyrant truly 
terrible. There were two Plays of Diyden in which 
he shone with uncommon Lustre ; in Ati7'-e7ige-Zebe 
he play'd Moral, and in Don Sebastian, Mulcy 
Moloch; in both these Parts he had a fierce. Lion- 
like Majesty in his Port and Utterance that gave the 
Spectator a kind of trembling Admiration ! 

Here I cannot help observing upon a modest Mis- 
take which I thought the late Mr. Booth committed 



122 THE LIFE OF 

in his acting the Part of Moral. There are in this 
fierce Character so many Sentiments of avow'd Bar- 
barity, Insolence, and Vain-glory, that they blaze 
even to a ludicrous Lustre, and doubtless the Poet 
intended those to make his Spectators laugh while 
they admir'd them ; but Booth thought it depreciated 
the Dignity of Tragedy to raise a Smile in any part 
of it, and therefore cover'd these kind of Sentiments 
with a scrupulous Coldness and unmov'd Delivery, 
as if he had fear'd the Audience might take too 
familiar a notice of them/ In Mr. Addisoiis Cato, 
Syphax"^ has some Sentiments of near the same nature, 

^ " The Laureat " (p. 33) : " I am of Opinion, Booth was not 
wrong in this. There are many of the Sentiments in this Character, 
where Nature and common Sense are outraged ; and an Actor, 
who shou'd give the full comic Utterance to them in his Delivery, 
would raise what they call a Horse-Laugh, and turn it into 
Burlesque." 

On the other hand, Theophilus Gibber, in his Life of Booth, 
p. 72, supports his father's opinion, saying : — 

"The Remark is just — Mr. Booth would sometimes slur over 
such bold Sentiments, so flightily delivered by the Poet. As he 
was good-natured — and would ' hear each Man's Censure, yet 
reserve his Judgment,' — I once took the Liberty of observing, that 
he had neglected (as I thought) giving that kind of spirited Turn 
in the afore-mentioned Character — He told me I was mistaken ; 
it was not Negligence, but Design made him so slightly pass them 
over : — For though, added he, in these places one might raise a 
Laugh of Approbation in a few, — yet there is nothing more unsafe 
than exciting the Laugh of Simpletons, who never know when or 
where to stop ; and, as the Majority are not always the wisest 
Part of an Audience, — I don't chuse to run the hazard." 

^ A long account of the production of "Cato" is given by 
Cibber in Chap. XIV. From the cast quoted in a note, it will be 
seen that Cibber himself was the original Syphax. 




KYNASTON 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 23 

which I ventur'd to speak as I imagin'd Kynaston 
would have done had he been then livine to have 
stood in the same Character. Mr. Addison, who had 
something of Mr. Boot/is Diffidence at the Rehearsal 
of his Play, after it was acted came into my Opinion, 
and own'd that even Tragedy on such particular 
Occasions might admit of a Laugh of Approbation} 
In Shakespear Instances of them are frequent, as in 
Mackbeth, Hotspur, Richard the Third, and Ha7'ry 
the Eighth} all which Characters, tho' of a tragical 

^ " The Laureat " (p. 33) : " I have seen the Origmal Syphax in 
Cato, use many ridiculous Distortions, crack in his Voice, and 
wreathe his Muscles and his Limbs, which created not a Smile of 
Approbation, but a loud Laugh of Contempt and Ridicule on the 
Actor." On page 34 : " In my Opinion, the Part of Syphax, as it 
was originally play'd, was the only Part in Cato not tolerably 
executed." 

^ Bellchambers on this passage has one of those aggravating 
notes, in which he seems to try to blacken Gibber as much as 
possible. I confess that I can see nothing of the " venom " 
he resents so vigorously. He says : — 

" Theophilus Gibber, in the tract already quoted, expressly 
states, that Booth * was not so scrupulously nice or timerous ' in 
this character, as in that to which our author has invidiously re- 
ferred. I shall give the passage, for its powerful antidote to 
Colley's venom : — 

'Mr. Booth, in this part, though he gave full Scope to the 
Humour, never dropped the Dignity of the Character — You 
laughed at Henry, but lost not your Respect for him. — When he 
appeared most familiar, he was by no means vulgar. — The People 
most about him felt the Ease they enjoyed was owing to his Con- 
descension. — He maintained the Monarch. — Haiis Holbein never 
gave a higher Picture of him than did the actor {Booth) in his 
Representation. When angry, his Eye spoke majestic Terror; 
the noblest and the bravest of his Courtiers were awe-struck — He 



124 '^^^ ^^^^ ^^ 

Cast, have sometimes familiar Strokes in them so 
highly natural to each particular Disposition, that it 
is impossible not to be transported into an honest 
Laughter at them : And these are those happy 
Liberties which, tho' few Authors are qualify'd to 
take, yet, when justly taken, may challenge a Place 
among their greatest Beauties. Now, whether Dij- 

den, in his Moral, feliciter Audet^ or may be 

allow'd the Happiness of having hit this Mark, seems 
not necessary to be determin'd by the Actor, whose 
Business, sure, is to make the best of his Author's 
Intention, as in this Part Kynaston did, doubtless 
not without Drydens Approbation. For these 
Reasons then, I thought my good Friend, Mr. Booth 
(who certainly had many Excellencies) carry'd his 
Reverence for the Buskin too far, in not following 
the bold Flights of the Author with that Wantonness 
of Spirit which the Nature of those Sentiments de- 
manded : For Example 1 Moral having a criminal 
Passion for Indamora, promises, at her Request, for 
one Day to spare the Life of her Lover Aurenge- 
Zebe: But not chusing to make known the real 
Motive of his Mercy, when Notunjiahal says to him, 

' Twill 7iot be safe to lei him live an Hour ! 

gave you the full Idea of that arbitrary Prince, who thought him- 
self born to be obeyed ; — the boldest dared not to dispute his 
Commands : — He appeared to claim a Right Divine to exert the 
Power he imperiously assumed.' (p. 75)." 

* •' Spirat Tragicum satis et feliciter audet." 

Hor. Epis. ii. i, 166. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I 25 

Moi'at silences her with this heroical Rhodomoiitadey 

ril ddt, to shew my Arbitrary Power} 
Risum teneatis f It was impossible not to laugh 
and reasonably too, when this Line came out of the 
Mouth of Kynaston^ with the stern and haughty- 
Look that attended it. But above this tyrannical, 
tumid Superiority of Character there is a grave and 
rational Majesty in Shakespeare Har^y the Fourth, 
which, tho' not so glaring to the vulgar Eye, requires 
thrice the Skill and Grace to become and support. 
Of this real Majesty Kynaston was entirely Master ; 
here every Sentiment came from him as if it had 
been his own, as if he had himself that instant con- 
ceiv'd it, as if he had lost the Player and were 
the real King he personated ! a Perfection so rarely 
found, that very often, in Actors of good Repute, a 
certain Vacancy of Look, Inanity of Voice, or super- 
fluous Gesture, shall unmask the Man to the judicious 
Spectator, who, from the least of those Errors, plainly 
sees the whole but a Lesson given him to be got by 
Heart from some great Author whose Sense is deeper 
than the Repeater's Understanding. This true Ma- 
jesty Kynaston had so entire a Command of, that 
when he whisper'd the following plain Line to 
Hotspur, 

Send us your Prisoners, or yotill hear of it ! ^ 

' " Aurenge-Zebe ; or, the Great Mogul," act iv. 
■^ Kynaston was the original Morat at the Theatre Royal in 
1675 ; Hart the Aurenge-Zebe. 
^ " King Henry IV.," First Part, act i. sc, 3. 



126 



THE LIFE OF 



He convey'd a more terrible Menace in it than the 
loudest Intemperance of Voice could swell to. But 
let the bold Imitator beware, for without the Look 
and just Elocution that waited on it an Attempt of 
the same nature may fall to nothing. 

But the Dignity of this Character appear'd in 
Kynaston still more shining in the private Scene 
between the King and Prince his Son : There you 
saw Majesty in that sort of Grief which only Majesty 
could feel ! there the paternal Concern for the Errors 
of the Son made the Monarch more rever'd and 
dreaded : His Reproaches so just, yet so unmix'd 
with Anger (and therefore the more piercing) open- 
ing as it were the Arms of Nature with a secret 
Wish, that filial Duty and Penitence awak'd, might 
fall into them with Grace and Honour. In this 
affecting Scene I thought Kynaston shew'd his most 
masterly Strokes of Nature ; expressing all the 
various Motions of the Heart with the same Force, 
Dignity and Feeling, they are written ; adding to 
the whole that peculiar and becoming Grace which 
the best Writer cannot inspire into any Actor that is 
not born with it. What made the Merit of this 
Actor and that of Bdterton more surprizing, was 
that though they both observ'd the Rules of Truth 
and Nature, they were each as different in their 
manner of acting as in their personal Form and 
Features. But Kynaston staid too long upon the 
Stage, till his Memory and Spirit began to fail him. 
I shall not therefore say any thing of his Imperfec- 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 12/ 

tions, which, at that time, were visibly not his own, 
but the Effects of decaying Nature.^ 

Monfort'^ a younger Man" by twenty Years, and 
at this time in his highest Reputation, was an Actor 
of a very different Style : Of Person he was tall, 
well made, fair, and of an agreeable Aspect: His 
Voice clear, full, and melodious : In Tragedy he was 
the most affecting Lover within my Memory. His 
Addresses had a resistless Recommendation from 
the very Tone of his Voice, which gave his Words 
such Softness that, as Drydcn says, 

Like Flakes of feathered Snow, 

They melted as they fell I ^ 

All this he particularly verify'd in that Scene of 
Alexander, where the Heroe throws himself at the 
Feet of Statira for Pardon of his past Infidelities. 
There we saw the Great, the Tender, the Penitent, 
the Despairing, the Transported, and the Amiable, 
in the highest Perfection. In Comedy he gave the 
truest Life to what we call the Fine Gentleman ; his 
Spirit shone the brighter for being polish'd with 
Decency : In Scenes of Gaiety he never broke into 
the Regard that was due to the Presence of equal 
or superior Characters, tho' inferior Actors play'd 
them ; he fill'd the Stage, not by elbowing and cross- 
ing it before others, or disconcerting their Action, 
but by surpassing them in true masterly Touches of 

' See memoir of Kynaston at end of second volume. 

* Downes spells Mountfort's name Monfort and MounforL 

' "Spanish Friar," act ii. sc. i. 



128 THE LIFE OF 

Nature. He never laugh'd at his own Jest, unless 
the Point of his Raillery upon another requir d it. — 
He had a particular Talent in giving Life to bons 
Mots and Repartees : The Wit of the Poet seem'd 
always to come from him extemp07'e, and sharpen'd 
into more Wit from his brillant manner of delivering 
it ; he had himself a good Share of it, or what is 
equal to it, so lively a Pleasantness of Humour, that 
when either of these fell into his Hands upon the 
Stage, he wantoned with them to the highest Delight 
of his Auditors. The agreeable was so natural to 
him, that even in that dissolute Character of the 
Rover'' he seem'd to wash off the Guilt from Vice, 
and gave it Charms and Merit. For tho' it may be 
a Reproach to the Poet to draw such Characters not 
only unpunish'd but rewarded, the Actor may still 
be allow'd his due Praise in his excellent Perfor- 
mance. And this is a Distinction which, when this 
Comedy was acted at Whitehall, King Williams 
Queen Mary was pleas'd to make in favour of Mon- 
fort, notwithstanding her Disapprobation of the Play. 
He had, besides all this, a Variety in his Genius 
which few capital Actors have shewn, or perhaps 
have thought it any Addition to their Merit to arrive 
at; he could entirely change himself; could at once 
throw off the Man of Sense for the brisk, vain, rude, 
and lively Coxcomb, the false, flashy Pretender to 
Wit, and the Dupe of his own Sufficiency : Of 

^ Willmore, in Mrs. Behn's " Rover," of which Smith was the 
original representative. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. I 29 

this he o-ave a deligfhtful Instance in the Character of 
Sparkish in Wycherlys Country Wife. In that of 
Sir Couj'tly Nice^ his Excellence was still greater : 
There his whole Man, Voice, Mien, and Gesture 
was no longer Monfort, but another Person. There, 
the insipid, soft Civility, the elegant and formal 
Mien, the drawling Delicacy of Voice, the stately 
Flatness of his Address, and the empty Eminence of 
his Attitudes were so nicely observ'd and guarded 
by him, that he had not been an entire Master of 
Nature had he not kept his Judgment, as it were, a 
Centinel upon himself, not to admit the least Like- 
ness of what he us'd to be to enter into any Part of 
his Performance, he could not possibly have so com- 
pfetely finish'd it. If, some Years after the Death of 
Monfort, I my self had any Success in either of these 
Characters, I must pay the Debt I owe to his 
Memory, in confessing the Advantages I receiv'd 
from the just Idea and strong Impression he had 
given me from his acting them. Had he been 
remember'd when I first attempted them my Defects 
would have been more easily discover'd, and conse- 
quently my favourable Reception in them must have 
been very much and justly abated. If it could be 
remembred how much he had the Advantage of me 
in Voice and Person, I could not here be suspected 
of an affected Modesty or of over-valuing his Excel- 
lence : For he sung a clear Counter-tenour, and had 

• In Crowne's " Sir Courtly Nice," produced at the Theatre 
Royal in 1685. 



130 THE LIFE OF 

a melodious, warbling Throat, which could not but 
set off the last Scene of Sir Coiirtly with an uncom- 
mon Happiness ; which I, alas ! could only struggle 
thro' with the faint Excuses and real Confidence of 
a fine Singer under the Imperfection of a feign'd and 
screaming Trebble, which at best could only shew 
you what I would have done had Nature been more 
favourable to me. 

This excellent Actor was cut off by a tragical 
Death In the 33d Year of his Age, generally lamented 
by his Friends and all Lovers of the Theatre. The 
particular Accidents that attended his Fall are to be 
found at large in the Trial of the Lord Mokun, 
printed among those of the State, in Folio} 

Sandford might properly be term'd the Spagnolet 
of the Theatre, an excellent Actor in disagreeable 

^ William Mountfort was born in 1659 or 1660, He became 
a member of the Duke's Company as a boy, and Downes says 
that in 1682 he had grown to the maturity of a good actor. 
In the "Counterfeits," licensed 29th August, 1678, the Boy is 
played by Young Mumford, and in " The Revenge," produced in 
1680, the same name stands to the part of Jack, the Barber's Boy. 
After the Union in 1682 he made rapid progress, for he played 
his great character of Sir Courtly Nice as early as 1685. In this 
Gibber gives him the highest praise ; and Downes says, " Sir 
Courtly was so nicely Perform'd, that not any succeeding, but Mr. 
Cyber has Equall'd him." Mountfort was killed by one Captain 
Hill, aided, it is supposed, by the Lord Mohun who died in 
that terrible duel with the Duke of Hamilton, in 171 2, in which 
they hacked each other to death. Whether Hill murdered 
Mountfort or killed him in fair fight is a doubtful point. (See 
Doran's "Their Majesties' Servants," 1888 edition, i. 169-172; 
see also memoir at end of second volume.) 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I3I 

Characters : For as the chief Pieces of that famous 
Painter were of Human Nature in Pain and Agony, 
so Sandford upon the Stage was generally as flagi- 
tious as a Creon, a Maligni, an lago, or a Machiavil^ 
could make him. The Painter, 'tis true, from the 
Fire of his Genius might think the quiet Objects of 
Nature too tame for his Pencil, and therefore chose 
to indulge it in its full Power upon those of Violence 
and Horror: But poor Sandford vjdiS, not the Stage- 
Villain by Choice, but from Necessity ; for having a 
low and crooked Person, such bodily Defects were 
too strong to be admitted into great or amiable Cha- 
racters ; so that whenever in any new or revived 
Play there was a hateful or mischievous Person, 
Sandford was sure to have no Competitor for it : 
Nor indeed (as we are not to suppose a Villain or 
Traitor can be shewn for our Imitation, or not for 
our Abhorrence) can it be doubted but the less 
comely the Actor's Person the fitter he may be to per- 
form them. The Spectator too, by not being misled 
by a tempting Form, may be less inclin'd to excuse 
the wicked or immoral Views or Sentiments of 
them. And though the hard Fate of an Oedipns 
might naturally give the Humanity of an Audience 
thrice the Pleasure that could arise from the wilful 
Wickedness of the best acted Creon, yet who could 
say that Sandford in such a Part was not Master of 
as true and just Action as the best Tragedian could 

^ Creon (I)ryden and Lee's "CEdipus"); Malignii (Porter's 
" Villain") ; Machiavil (Lee's " Cxsar Borgia"). 



132 THE LIFE OF 

be whose happier Person had recommended him to 
the virtuous Heroe, or any other more pleasing 
Favourite of the Imagination ? In this disadvan- 
tageous Light, then, stood Sandford as an Actor ; 
admir'd by the Judicious, while the Crowd only 
prais'd him by their Prejudice/ And so unusual had 
it been to see Sandford an innocent Man in a Play, 
that whenever he was so, the Spectators would 
hardly give him credit in so gross an Improbability. 
Let me give you an odd Instance of it, which I heard 
Monfort say was a real Fact. A new Play (the Name 
of it I have forgot) was brought upon the Stage, 
wherein Sandfo7'd happen'd to perform the Part of 
an honest Statesman : The Pit, after they had sate 
three or four Acts in a quiet Expectation that the 
well-dissembled Honesty of Sandford (for such of 
course they concluded it) would soon be discover'd, 
or at least, from its Security, involve the Actors in 
the Play in some surprizing Distress or Confusion, 
which might raise and animate the Scenes to come ; 
when, at last, finding no such matter, but that the 
Catastrophe had taken quite another Turn, and that 

^ The "Tatler," No. 134: "I must own, there is something 
very horrid in the publick Executions of an English Tragedy. 
Stabbing and Poisoning, which are performed behind the Scenes 
in other Nations, must be done openly among us to gratify the 
Audience. 

When poor Sandford was upon the Stage, I have seen him 
groaning upon a Wheel, stuck with Daggers, impaled alive, calling 
his Executioners, with a dying Voice, Cruel Dogs, and Villains ! 
And all this to please his judicious Spectators, who were wonder- 
fully delighted with seeing a Man in Torment so well acted." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 33 

Saizdford was really an honest Man to the end of the 
Play, they fairly damn'd it, as if the Author had im- 
pos'd upon them the most frontless or incredible 
Absurdity/ 

It is not improbable but that from Smtdford'?, so 
masterly personating Characters of Guilt, the inferior 
Actors might think his Success chiefly owing to the 
Defects of his Person ; and from thence might take 
occasion, whenever they appear'd as Bravo's or 
Murtherers, to make themselves as frightful and as 
inhuman Figures as possible. In King Cka^dcss 
time, this low Skill was carry 'd to such an Extrava- 
gance, that the King himself, who was black-brow'd 
and of a swarthy Complexion, pass'd a pleasant 
Remark upon his observing the grim Looks of the 
Murtherers in Mackbeth ; when, turning to his People 
in the Box about him, Pray, what is the Meaning, 
said he, that we never see a Rogue in a Play, but, 
Godsfish ! they always clap him 07i a black Perriwig ? 
when it is well known one of the greatest Rogues in 
England always wears a fair one? Now, whether 
or no Dr. Oates at that time wore his own Hair I 



^ Bellchambers notes : " This anecdote has more vivacity 
than truth, for the audience were too much accustomed to see 
Sandford in parts of even a comic nature, to testify the impatience 
or disappointment which Mr. Gibber has described." I may add 
that I have been unable to discover any play to which the cir- 
cumstances mentioned by Gibber would apply. But it must not 
be forgotten that, if the play were damned as completely as Gibber 
says, it would probably not be printed, and we should thus in all 
probability have no record of it. 



134 THE LIFE OF 

cannot be positive : Or, if his Majesty pointed at 
some greater Man then out of Power, I leave those 
to guess at him who may yet remember the changing 
Complexion of his Ministers/ This Story I had 
from Betterton, who was a Man of Veracity : And I 
confess I should have thought the King's Observa- 
tion a very just one, though he himself had been fair 
as Adonis. Nor can I in this Question help voting 
with the Court ; for were it not too gross a Weak- 
ness to employ in wicked Purposes Men whose very 
suspected Looks might be enough to betray them ? 
Or are we to suppose It unnatural that a Murther 
should be thoroughly committed out of an old red 
Coat and a black Perriwig ? 

For my own part, I profess myself to have been 
an Admirer of Sandford, and have often lamented 
that his masterly Performance could not be rewarded 
with that Applause which I saw much inferior 
Actors met with, merely because they stood in more 
laudable Characters. For, tho' it may be a Merit in 
an Audience to applaud Sentiments of Virtue and 
Honour; yet there seems to be an equal Justice that 
no Distinction should be made as to the Excellence 
of an Actor, whether in a good or evil Character ; since 
neither the Vice nor the Virtue of It is his own, but 
given him by the Poet : Therefore, why is not the 
Actor who shines in either equally commendable ? — 
No, Sir; this may be Reason, but that is not always 
a Rule with us ; the Spectator will tell you, that when 
^ Probably the Earl of Shaftesbury. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 35 

Virtue is applauded he gives part of it to himself; 
because his Applause at the same time lets others 
about him see that he himself admires it. But when 
a wicked Action is going forward ; when an lago Is 
meditating- RevenQ^e and Mischief; tho' Art and 
Nature may be equally strong in the Actor, the 
Spectator is shy of his Applause, lest he should in 
some sort be look'd upon as an Aider or an Abettor 
of the Wickedness in view ; and therefore rather 
chuses to rob the Actor of the Praise he may merit, 
than cfive it him in a Character which he would have 
you see his Silence modestly discourages. From the 
same fond Principle many Actors have made it a 
Point to be seen in Parts sometimes even flatly 
written, only because they stood In the favourable 
Llofht of Honour and Virtue.^ 

I have formerly known an Actress carry this 
Theatrical Prudery to such a height, that she was 
very near keeping herself chaste by It : Her Fond- 
ness for Virtue on the Stage she began to think 
might perswade the World that it had made an Im- 
pression on her private Life ; and the Appearances 
of it actually went so far that, in an Epilogue to an 
obscure Play, the Profits of which were given to her, 
and wherein she acted a Part of impregnable Chas- 

^ Macready seems to have held something Uke this view re- 
garding "villains." At the present time we have no such preju- 
dices, for one of the most popular of English actors, Mr. E. S. 
Willard, owes his reputation chiefly to his wonderfully vivid pre- 
sentation of villainy. 



136 THE LIFE OF 

tity, she bespoke the Favour of the Ladies by a Pro- 
testation that in Honour of their Goodness and 
Virtue she would dedicate her unblemish'd Life to 
their Example. Part of this Vestal Vow, I remem- 
ber, was contain'd in the following Verse : 

Study to live the Character I play} 

But alas ! how weak are the strongest Works of Art 
when Nature besieges it ? for though this good 
Creature so far held out her Distaste to Mankind 
that they could never reduce her to marry any one 
of 'em ; yet we must own she grew, like CcBsar, 
greater by her Fall ! Her first heroick Motive to a 
Surrender was to save the Life of a Lover who in 
his Despair had vow'd to destroy himself, with 
which Act of Mercy (in a jealous Dispute once in my 
Hearing) she was provoked to reproach him in these 
very Words : Villain I did not I save your Life f 
The generous Lover, in return to that first tender 
Obligation, gave Life to her First-born," and that 
pious Offspring has since raised to her Memory 
several innocent Grandchildren. 

^ The play in question is " The Triumphs of Virtue," produced 
at Drury Lane in 1697, and the actress is Mrs. Rogers, who after- 
wards lived with Wilks. The lines in the Epilogue are : — 

" I'll pay this duteous gratitude ; I'll do 

That which the play has done — I'll copy you. 

At your own virtue's shrine my vows I'll pay, 

Study to live the character I play." 

^ Chetwood gives a short memoir of this " first-born," who be- 
came the wife of Christopher Bullock, and died in 1739. Mrs. 
Dyer was the only child of Mrs. Bullock's mentioned by Chetwood. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 37 

So that, as we see, it is not the Hood that makes 
the Monk, nor the Veil the Vestal ; I am apt to think 
that if the personal Morals of an Actor were to be 
weighed by his Appearance on the Stage, the Ad- 
vantage and Favour (if any were due to either side) 
might rather incline to the Traitor than the Heroe, 
to the Semproniiis than the Cato, or to the Syphax 
than th.Q.Juba: Because no Man can naturally desire 
to cover his Honesty with a wicked Appearance ; 
but an ill Man might possibly incline to cover his 
Guilt with the Appearance of Virtue, which was the 
Case of the frail Fair One now mentioned. But be 
this Question decided as it may, Sandford always 
appear'd to me the honester Man in proportion to 
the Spirit wherewith he exposed the wicked and 
immoral Characters he acted : For had his Heart 
been unsound, or tainted with the least Guilt of 
them, his Conscience must, in spite of him, in any too 
near a Resemblance of himself, have been a Check 
upon the Vivacity of his Action. Sandford there- 
fore might be said to have contributed his equal 
Share with the foremost Actors to the true and 
laudable Use of the Stage : And in this Light too, 
of being so frequently the Object of common Dis- 
taste, we may honestly stile him a Theatrical Martyr 
to Poetical Justice : For in making Vice odious or 
Virtue amiable, where does the Merit differ ? To 
hate the one or love the other are but leading Steps 
to the same Temple of Fame, tho' at different Portals.^ 
' See memoir of Sandford at end of second volume. 



138 THE LIFE OF 

This Actor, in his manner of Speaking, varied 
very much from those I have already mentioned. 
His Voice had an acute and piercing Tone, which 
struck every Syllable of his Words distinctly upon 
the Ear. He had likewise a peculiar Skill in his 
Look of marking out to an Audience whatever he 
judg'd worth their more than ordinary Notice. When 
he deliver'd a Command, he would sometimes give it 
more Force by seeming to slight the Ornament of 
Harmony. In Drydeiis Plays of Rhime, he as little 
as possible glutted the Ear with the Jingle of it, 
rather chusing, when the Sense would permit him, to 
lose it, than to value it. 

Had Sandford liv'd in Shakespear s Time, I am 
confident his Judgment must have chose him above 
all other Actors to have play'd his Richard the Third: 
I leave his Person out of the Question, which, tho' 
naturally made for it, yet that would have been the 
the least Part of his Recommendation ; Sandford 
had stronger Claims to it ; he had sometimes an 
uncouth Stateliness in his Motion, a harsh and sullen 
Pride of Speech, a meditating Brow, a stern Aspect, 
occasionally changing into an almost ludicrous Tri- 
umph over all Goodness and Virtue : From thence 
falling into the most asswasive Gentleness and sooth- 
ing Candour of a designing Heart. These, I say, 
must have preferr'd him to it ; these would have 
been Colours so essentially shining in that Character, 
that it will be no Dispraise to that great Author to 
say, Sajidford must have shewn as many masterly 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 1 39 

Strokes in it (had he ever acted it) as are visible in 
the Writing it.^ 

When I first brought Richard the Third"^ (with such 
Alterations as I thought not improper) to the Stage, 
Sandford was engaged in the Company then act- 
ing under King Williams Licence in Lificolns- 
Inn- Fields ; otherwise you cannot but suppose my 
Interest must have offer'd him that Part. What 
encouraged me, therefore, to attempt it myself at the 
Theatre-Royal, was that I imagined I knew how 
Sandford would have spoken every Line of it : If, 
therefore, in any Part of it I succeeded, let the Merit 
be given to him : And how far I succeeded in that 
Light, those only can be Judges who remember him. 
In order, therefore, to give you a nearer Idea of 
Sandford, you must give me leave (compell'd as I 
am to be vain) to tell you that the late Sir John 
Vanbrugh, who was an Admirer of Sandford, after 

^ It is a very common mistake to state that Gibber founded his 
playing of Richard III. on that of Sandford. He merely says 
that he tried to act the part as he knew Sandford would have 
played it. 

^ Gibber's adaptation, which has held the stage ever since its 
production, was first played at Drury Lane in 1700. Genest (ii. 
195-219) gives an exhaustive account of Gibber's mutilation. His 
opinion of it may be gathered from these sentences : " One has 
no wish to disturb Gibber's own Tragedies in their tranquil graves, 
but while our indignation continues to be excited by the frequent 
representation of Richard the 3d in so disgraceful a state, there 
can be no peace between the friends of unsophisticated Shak- 
speare and Gibber." " To the advocates for Gibber's Richard I 
only wish to make one request — that they would never say a 
syllable in favour of Shakspeare." 

K 



140 THE LIFE OF 

he had seen me act it, assur'd me That he never 
knew any one Actor so particularly profit by another 
as I had done by Saiidford in Richard the Third: 
You have, said he, his very Look, Gesture, Gait, 
Speech, and every Motion of him, and have borrow d 
them all only to serve you in that Character. If, 
therefore, Sir John Vanbrtigh's Observation was just, 
they who remember me in Richard the Third may 
have a nearer Conception of Sandford than from all 
the critical Account I can give of him.^ 

I come now to those other Men Actors, who at 
this time were equally famous in the lower Life of 
Comedy. But I find myself more at a loss to give 
you them in their true and proper Light, than those 
I have already set before you. Why the Tragedian 
warms us into Joy or Admiration, or sets our Eyes 
on flow with Pity, we can easily explain to another's 
Apprehension : But it may sometimes puzzle the 

^ " The Laureat " (p. 35) : " This same Mender of Shakespear 
chose the principal Part, viz. the King, for himself; and accord- 
ingly being invested with the purple Robe, he screamed thro' four 
Acts without Dignity or Decency. The Audience ill-pleas'd with 
the Farce, accompany'd him with a smile of Contempt, but in the 
fifth Act, he degenerated all at once into Sir Novelty ; and when 
in the Heat of the Battle at Bosttwrth Field, the King is dis- 
mounted, our Comic-Tragedian came on the Stage, really breath- 
less, and in a seeming Panick, screaming out this Line thus — A 
Harse, a Harse, my Kingdom for a Harse. This highly delighted 
some, and disgusted others of his Auditors ; and when he was kill'd 
by Richmond, one might plainly perceive that the good People 
were not better pleas'd that so execrable a Tyrant was destroy'd, 
than that so execrable an Actor was silent." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I4I 

gravest Spectator to account for that familiar Vio- 
lence of Laughter that shall seize him at some par- 
ticular Strokes of a true Comedian. How then shall 
I describe what a better Judge might not be able to 
express ? The Rules to please the Fancy cannot so 
easily be laid down as those that ought to govern 
the Judgment. The Decency, too, that must be ob- 
served in Tragedy, reduces, by the manner of speak- 
ing it, one Actor to be much more like another than 
they can or need be supposed to be in Comedy : 
There the Laws of Action give them such free and 
almost unlimited Liberties to play and wanton with 
Nature, that the Voice, Look, and Gesture of a 
Comedian may be as various as the Manners and 
Faces of the whole Mankind are different from one 
another. These are the Difficulties I lie under. 
Where I want Words, therefore, to describe what I 
may commend, I can only hope you will give credit 
to my Opinion : And this Credit I shall most stand in 
need of, when I tell you, that 

Nokes ^ was an Actor of a quite different Genius 
from any I have ever read, heard of, or seen, since 
or before his Time ; and yet his general Excellence 
may be comprehended in one Article, viz. a plain 

' James Noke, or Nokes — not Robert, as Bellchambers states. 
Of Robert Nokes little is known. Downes mentions both actors 
among Rhodes's original Company, Robert playing male charac- 
ters, and James being one of the "boy-actresses." Downes does 
not distinguish between them at all, simply mentioning " Mr. 
Nokes" as playing particular parts. Robert Nokes died about 
1673, so that wc are certain that the famous brother was James. 



142 THE LIFE OF 

and palpable Simplicity of Nature, which was so 
utterly his own, that he was often as unaccountably 
diverting in his common Speech as on the Stage. I 
saw him once orivinor an Account of some Table-talk 
to another Actor behind the Scenes, which a Man 
of Quality accidentally listening to, was so deceived 
by his Manner, that he ask'd him if that was a new 
Play he was rehearsing ? It seems almost amazing 
that this Simplicity, so easy to Nokes, should never 
be caught by any one of his Successors. Leigh and 
Underhil have been well copied, tho' not equall'd by 
others. But not all the mimical Skill of Estcoui'-t 
(fam'd as he was for it) tho' he had often seen Nokes, 
could scarce give us an Idea of him. After this per- 
haps it will be saying less of him, when I own, that 
though I have still the Sound of every Line he spoke 
in my Ear, (which us'd not to be thought a bad one) 
yet I have often try'd by myself, but in vain, to 
reach the least distant Likeness of the Vis Comica of 
Nokes, Though this may seem little to his Praise, 
it may be negatively saying a good deal to it, because 
I have never seen any one Actor, except himself, 
whom I could not at least so far imitate as to give 
you a more than tolerable Notion of his manner. 
But Nokes was so singular a Species, and was so 
form'd by Nature for the Stage, that I question if 
(beyond the trouble of getting Words by Heart) it 
ever cost him an Hour's Labour to arrive at that 
high Reputation he had, and deserved. 

The Characters he particularly shone in, were Sir 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 43 

Martin Marr-all, Gomes in the Spanish Friar, Sir 
Nicolas Cully in Love in a Tub} Barnaby Bj^ittle in 
the Wanton Wife, Sir Davy Dimce in the Soldiers 
Fortune, Sosia in Amphytrion^ &c. &c. &c. To tell 
you how he acted them is beyond the reach of 
Criticism : But to tell you what Effect his Action 
had upon the Spectator is not impossible : This then 
is all you will expect from me, and from hence I 
must leave you to guess at him. 

He scarce ever made his first Entrance in a Play 
but he was received with an involuntary Applause, 
not of Hands only, for those may be, and have often 
been partially prostituted and bespoken, but by a 
General Laughter which the very Sight of him pro- 
voked and Nature cou'd not resist ; yet the louder 
the Laugh the graver was his Look upon it ; and 
sure, the ridiculous Solemnity of his Features were 
enough to have set a whole Bench of Bishops into a 
Titter, cou'd he have been honour'd (may it be no 
Offence to suppose it) with such grave and right 
reverend Auditors. In the ludicrous Distresses 
which, by the Laws of Comedy, Folly is often involv'd 
in, he sunk into such a mixture of piteous Pusillani- 
mity and a Consternation so ruefully ridiculous and 
inconsolable, that when he had shook you to a 
Fatigue of Laughter it became a moot point whether 
you ought not to have pity'd him. When he debated 

' "The Comical Revenge ; or, Love in a Tub." 
^ Of these plays, " The Spanish Friar," " The Soldier's Fortune," 
and " Amphytrion " were i)roduced after Robert Nokcs's death. 



144 THE LIFE OF 

any matter by himself, he would shut up his Mouth 
with a dumb studious Powt, and roll his full Eye into 
such a vacant Amazement, such a palpable Ignorance 
of what to think of it, that his silent Perplexity (which 
would sometimes hold him several Minutes) gave 
your Imagination as full Content as the most absurd 
thing he could say upon it. In the Character of Sir 
Martin Marr-all, who is always committing Blunders 
to the Prejudice of his own Interest, when he had 
brought himself to a Dilemma in his Affairs by 
vainly proceeding upon his own Head, and was after- 
wards afraid to look his governing Servant and Coun- 
sellor in the Face, what a copious and distressful 
Harangue have I seen him make with his Looks 
(while the House has been in one continued Roar 
for several Minutes) before he could prevail with his 
Courage to speak a Word to him ! Then might you 
have at once read in his Face Vexation — that his own 
Measures, which he had piqued himself upon, had 
fail'd. Envy — of his Servant's superior Wit — Distress 
— to retrieve the Occasion he had lost. Shame — to 
confess his Folly ; and yet a sullen Desire to be re- 
conciled and better advised for the future ! What 
Tragedy ever shew'd us such a Tumult of Passions 
rising at once in one Bosom ! or what buskin'd 
Heroe standing under the Load of them could have 
more effectually mov'd his Spectators by the most 
pathetick Speech, than poor miserable Nokes did by 
this silent Eloquence and piteous Plight of his 
Features ? 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 45 

His Person was of the middle size, his Voice clear 
and audible ; his natural Countenance grave and 
sober ; but the Moment he spoke the settled Serious- 
ness of his Features was utterly discharg'd, and a 
dry, drolling, or laughing Levity took such full Pos- 
session of him that I can only refer the Idea of him 
to your Imagination. In some of his low Characters, 
that became it, he had a shuffling Shamble in his 
Gait, with so contented an Ignorance in his Aspect 
and an aukward Absurdity in his Gesture, that had 
you not known him, you could not have believ'd 
that naturally he could have had a Grain of common 
Sense. In a Word, I am tempted to sum up the 
Character of Nokes, as a Comedian, in a Parodie of 
what Shakespears Mark Antony says oi Bj'utus as a 
Hero. 

His Life was Laughter, and the Ludicrous 
So mixt in him, that Natit7^e might stand up 
And say to all the World — This was an Actor. ^ 

Leigh was of the mercurial kind, and though not 
so strict an Observer of Nature, yet never so wanton 
in his Performance as to be wholly out of her Sight. 
In Humour he lov'd to take a full Career, but was 
careful enough to stop short when just upon the 
Precipice : He had great Variety in his manner, and 
was famous in very different Characters : In the 
canting, grave Hypocrisy of the Spanish Friar he 
stretcht the Veil of Piety so thinly over him, that in 

^ See memoir of James Nokes at end of second volume. 



146 THE LIFE OF 

every Look, Word, and Motion you saw a palpable, 
wicked Slyness shine through it — Here he kept his 
Vivacity demurely confin'd till the pretended Duty 
of his Function demanded it, and then he exerted it 
with a cholerick sacerdotal Insolence. But the Friar 
is a Character of such glaring Vice and so strongly 
drawn, that a very indifferent Actor cannot but hit 
upon the broad Jests that are remarkable in every 
Scene of it. Though I have never yet seen any one 
that has fill'd them with half the Truth and Spirit of 

Leigh Leigh rais'd the Character as much above 

the Poet's Imagination as the Character has some- 
times rais'd other Actors above themselves ! and I 
do not doubt but the Poet's Knowledge of Leigh's 
Genius help'd him to many a pleasant Stroke of 
Nature, which without that Knowledge never might 
have enter'd into his Conception. Leigh was so 
eminent in this Character that the late Earl of Dorset 
(who was equally an Admirer and a Judge of Thea- 
trical Merit) had a whole Length of him, in the Friar's 
Habit, drawn by Kneller : The whole Portrait is 
highly painted, and extremely like him. But no 
wonder Leigh arriv'd to such Fame in what was so 
compleatly written for him, when Characters that 
would make the Reader yawn in the Closet, have, 
by the Strength of his Action, been lifted into the 
lowdest Laughter on the Stage. Of this kind was 
the Scrivener's great boobily Son in the Villain;^ 

' " Coligni, the character alluded to, at the original representa- 
tion of this play, was sustained, says Downs, ' by that inimitable 




ANTHONY LEIGH 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 47 

Ralph, a stupid, staring Under-servant, In Sir Solo- 
7non Single} Quite opposite to those were Sir Jolly 
Jimible in the Soldier s Fortune!^ and his old Belfond 
in the Squire of Alsatia? In Sir Jolly he was all 
Life and laughing Humour, and when Nokes acted 

sprightly actor, Mr. Price, — especially in this part.' Joseph Price 
joined D'Avenant's company on Rhodes's resignation, being one 
of 'the new actors,' according to the ' Roscius Anglicanus,' who 
were ' taken in to complete ' it. He is first mentioned for Guilden 
stern, in * Hamlet ; ' and, in succession, for Leonel, in D'Avenant's 
' Love and Honour,' on which occasion the Earl of Oxford gave 
him his coronation-suit; for Paris, in 'Romeo and Juliet;' the 
Corregidor, in Tuke's 'Adventures of five hours;' and Co/igni, as 
already recorded. In the year 1663, by speaking a ' short comi- 
cal prologue ' to the ' Rivals,' introducing some ' very diverting 
dances,' Mr. Price ' gained him an universal applause of the 
town.' The versatility of this actor must have been great, or the 
necessities of the company imperious, as we next find him set 
down for Lord Sands, in ' King Henry the Eighth.' He then 
performed Will, in the 'Cutter of Coleman-street,' and is men- 
tioned by Downs as being dead, in the year 1673." 

The above is Bellchambers's note. He is wrong in stating that 
Price played the Corregidor in Tuke's "Adventures of Five 
Hours;" his part was Silvio. He omits, too, to mention one of 
Price's best parts, Dufoy, in " Love in a Tub," in which Downes 
specially commends him in this queer couplet : — 

"Sir Nich'las, Sir Fred'rick; Widow and Dufoy, 
Were not by any so well done, Mafoy." 

Price does not seem to have acted after May, 1665, when the 
theatres closed for the Plague, for his name is never mentioned 
by Downes after the theatres re-opened in November, 1666, after 
the Plague and Fire. 

^ " Sir Solomon ; or, the Cautious Coxcomb," by John Caryll. 

■■* By Otway. 

' By Shadwell. 



148 THE LIFE OF 

with him In the same Play, they returned the Ball so 
dexterously upon one another, that every Scene be- 
tween them seem'd but one continued Rest ^ of Excel- 
lence But alas ! when those Actors were gone, 

that Comedy and many others, for the same Reason, 
were rarely known to stand upon their own Legs ; 
by seeing no more of Leigh or Nokes in them, the 
Characters were quite sunk and alter'd. In his Sir 
William Belfond, Leigh shew'd a more spirited 
Variety than ever I saw any Actor, in any one 
Character, come up to : The Poet, 'tis true, had here 
exactly chalked for him the Out-lines of Nature; 
but the high Colouring, the strong Lights and Shades 
of Humour that enliven'd the whole and struck our 
Admiration with Surprize and Delight, were wholly 
owing to the Actor. The easy Reader might, per- 

* " Rest " is a term used in tennis, and seems to have meant a 
quick and continued returning of the ball from one player to the 
other — what is in lawn tennis called a "rally." 

Gibber uses the word in his "Careless Husband," act iv. sc. i. 

^^ Lady Betty [to Lord Morelove]. Nay, my lord, there's no 
standing against two of you. 

Lord Foppington. No, faith, that's odds at tennis, my lord : not 
but if your ladyship pleases, I'll endeavour to keep your back- 
hand a little ; though upon my soul you may safely set me up at 
the line : for, knock me down, if ever I saw a rest of wit better 
played, than that last, in my life." 

In the only dictionary in which I have found this word " Rest," 
it is given as "A match, a game;" but, as I think I have shown, 
this is a defective explanation. I may add that, since writing the 
above, I have been favoured with the opinion of Mr. Julian 
Marshall, the distinguished authority on tennis, who confirms my 
view. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 49 

haps, have been pleased with the Author without 
discomposing a Feature, but the Spectator must have 
heartily held his Sides, or the Actor would have 
heartily made them ach for it. 

Now, though I observ'd before that Nokes never 
was tolerably touch'd by any of his Successors, yet 
in this Character I must own I have seen Leigh 
extremely well imitated by my late facetious Friend 
Penkethman, who, tho' far short of what was inimi- 
table in the Original, yet, as to the general Resem- 
blance, was a very valuable Copy of him : And, as I 
know Penkethman cannot yet be out of your Memory, 
I have chosen to mention him here, to give you the 
nearest Idea I can of the Excellence oi Leigh in that 
particular Light : For Leigh had many masterly 
Variations which the other cou'd not, nor ever pre- 
tended to reach, particularly in the Dotage and 
Follies of extreme old Age, in the Characters of 
Fumble in the Fond HiLsband^ and the Toothless 
Lawyer^ in the City Politicks, both which Plays liv'd 
only by the extraordinary Performance of Nokes and 
Leigh. 

There were two other Characters of the farcical 
kind, Gcta in the Prophetess, and Crack in Sir 
Courtly Nice, which, as they are less confin'd to 
Nature, the Imitation of them was less difficult to 

' By Durfey. 

^ Bartoline. Genest suggests that this character was intendcii 
for the Whig lawyer, Serjeant Maynard. The play was written hy 
Crowne. 



150 THE LIFE OF 

Penkethman} who, to say the Truth, deHghted more 
in the whimsical than the natural ; therefore, when I 
say he sometimes resembled Leigh, I reserve this 
Distinction on his Master's side, that the pleasant 
ExtravaQ^ancies of Leio'h were all the Flowers of his 
own Fancy, while the less fertile Brain of my Friend 
was contented to make use of the Stock his Prede- 
cessor had left him. What I have said, therefore, is 
not to detract from honest Pinky s Merit, but to do 

Justice to his Predecessor And though, 'tis true, 

we as seldom see a good Actor as a great Poet arise 
from the bare Imitation of another's Genius, yet if 
this be a general Rule, Peiikcthvian was the nearest 
to an Exception from it; for with those who never 
knew Leigh he might very well have pass'd for a 
more than common Original. Yet again, as my 
Partiality for Penkethman ought not to lead me from 
Truth, I must beg leave (though out of its Place) to 
tell you fairly what was the best of him, that the 

superiority of Leigh may stand in its due Light 

Penkethman had certainly from Nature a great deal 
of comic Power about him, but his Judgment was by 
no means equal to it ; for he would make frequent 
Deviations into the Whimsies of an Harleqicin. By 
the way, (let me digress a little farther) whatever 
Allowances are made for the Licence of that Charac- 
ter, I mean of an Harlequin, whatever Pretences 
may be urged, from the Practice of the ancient 
Comedy, for its being play'd in a Mask, resembling 
^ See memoir of Pinkethman at end of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I 5 I 

no part of the human Species, I am apt to think the 
best Excuse a modern Actor can plead for his con- 
tinuing it, is that the low, senseless, and monstrous 
thino-s he says and does in it no theatrical Assu- 
rance could get through with a bare Face : Let me 
give you an Instance of even Penkct/mians being out 
of Countenance for want of it : When he first play'd 
Harlequin in the Emperor of the Moonl several 
Gentlemen (who inadvertently judg'd by the Rules 
of Nature) fancied that a great deal of the Drollery 
and Spirit of his Grimace was lost by his wearing 
that useless, unmeaning Masque of a black Cat, and 
therefore insisted that the next time of his acting 
that Part he should play without it : Their Desire 

was accordingly comply'd with but, alas ! in vain 

— Penkethman could not take to himself the Shame 
of the Character without being concealed — he was 
no more Harlequin — his Humour was quite discon- 
certed ! his Conscience could not with the same 
Effronterie declare against Nature without the cover 
of that unchanging Face, which he was sure would 
never blush for it ! no ! it was quite another Case ! 

^ In this farce, written by Mrs. Behn, and produced in 1687, 
Jevon was the original Harlequin. Pinkethman played the part 
in 1702, and played it without the mask on i8th September, 
1702. The "Daily Courant" of that date contains an advertise- 
ment in which it is stated that " At the Desire of some Persons of 
Quality . . . will be presented a Comedy, call'd. The Emperor of 
the Moon, wherein Mr. Penkethman acts the part of Harlequin 
without a Masque, for the Entertainment of an African Prince 
lately arrived here." 



152 THE LIFE OF 

without that Armour his Courage could not come up 
to the bold Strokes that were necessary to get the 
better of common Sense. Now if this Circumstance 
will justify the Modesty of Penkethman, it cannot 
but throw a wholesome Contempt on the low Merit 
of an Harlequin. But how farther necessary the 
Masque is to that Fool's Coat, we have lately had a 
stronger Proof in the Favour that the Harlequin 
Sauvage met with at Paris, and the ill Fate that fol- 
lowed the same Sauvage when he pull'd off his 
Masque in London} So that it seems what was Wit 
from an Harlequin was something too extravagant 
from a human Creature. If, therefore, Pc7ikethman 
in Characters drawn from Nature might sometimes 
launch out into a few gamesome Liberties which would 
not have been excused from a more correct Comedian, 
yet, in his manner of taking them, he always seem'd 
to me in a kind of Consciousness of the Hazard he 
was running, as if he fairly confess'd that what he 

did was only as well as he could do That he was 

willing to take his Chance for Success, but if he did 
not meet with it a Rebuke should break no Squares ; 

^ This refers to " Art and Nature," a comedy by James Miller, 
produced at Drury Lane i6th February, 1738. The principal 
character in " Harlequin Sauvage" was introduced into it and 
played by Theophilus Gibber. The piece was damned the first 
night, but it must not be forgotten that the Templars damned 
everything of Miller's on account of his supposed insult to them in 
his farce of " The Coffee House." Bellchambers says the piece 
referred to by Gibber was " The Savage," 8vo, 1736 ; but this does 
not seem ever to have been acted. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I 53 

he would mend it another time, and would take 
whatever pleas'd his Judges to think of him in good 
part ; and I have often thought that a good deal of 
the Favour he met with was owing to this seeming 
humble way of waving all Pretences to Merit but 
what the Town would please to allow him. What 
confirms me in this Opinion is, that when it has been 
his ill Fortune to meet with a Disgraccia^ I have 
known him say apart to himself, yet loud enough to 

be heard Odso ! I believe I am a little wrong here ! 

which once was so well receiv'd by the Audience 
that they turn'd their Reproof into Applause.^ 

Now, the Judgment of Leigh always guarded the 
happier Sallies of his Fancy from the least Hazard 
of Disapprobation : he seem'd not to court, but to 

^ This probably refers to the incident related by Davies in his 
"Dramatic Miscellanies" :—" In the play of the 'Recruiting 
Officer,' Wilks was the Captain Plume, and Pinkethman one of 
the recruits. The captain, when he enlisted him, asked his name : 
instead of answering as he ought, Pinkey replied, ' Why ! don't 
you know my name, Bob? I thought every fool had known that !' 
Wilks, in rage, whispered to him the name of the recruit, Thomas 
Appletree. The other retorted aloud, ' Thomas Appletree ? Thomas 
Devil ! my name is Will Pinkethman :' and, immediately address- 
ing an inhabitant of the upper regions, he said ' Hark you, friend ; 
don't you know my name?' — ' Yes, Master Pinkey,' said a respon- 
dent, 'we know it very well.' The play-house was now in an 
uproar : the audience, at first, enjoyed the petulant folly of Pinketh- 
man, and the distress of Wilks; but, in the progress of the joke, it 
grew tiresome, and Pinkey met with his deserts, a very severe re- 
primand in a hiss ; and this mark of displeasure he changed into 
applause, by crying out, with a countenance as melancholy as he 
could make it, in a loud and nasal twang, 'Odso! I fear I am 
wrong'" (iii. 89). 



154 THE LIFE OF 

attack your Applause, and always came off victo- 
rious ; nor did his highest Assurance amount to any 
more than that just Confidence without which the 
commendable Spirit of every good Actor must be 
abated ; and of this Spirit Leigh was a most perfect 
Master. He was much admir'd by King Cha^des, who 
us'd to distinguish him when spoke of by the Title 
of his Actor: Which however makes me imagine 
that in his Exile that Prince might have receiv'd his 
first Impression of good Actors from the French 
Stage ; for Leigh had more of that farcical Vivacity 
than Nokes ; but Nokes was never languid by his 
more strict Adherence to Nature, and as far as my 
Judgment is worth taking, if their intrinsick Merit 
could be justly weigh'd, Nokes must have had the 
better in the Balance. Upon the unfortunate Death 
of Monfort, Leigh fell ill of a Fever, and dy'd in a 
Week after him, in December 1692/ 

Underhil was a correct and natural Comedian, his 
particular Excellence was in Characters that may be 
called Still-life, I mean the Stiff, the Heavy, and the 
Stupid ; to these he gave the exactest and most ex- 
pressive Colours, and in some of them look'd as if it 
were not in the Power of human Passions to alter 
a Feature of him. In the solemn Formality of 
Obadiah in the Committee, and in the boobily Heavi- 
ness of Lolpoop in the Squire of Alsatia, he seem'd 
the immoveable Log he stood for ! a Countenance 
of Wood could not be more fixt than his, when the 
' See memoir of Leigh at end of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 55 

Blockhead of a Character required it: His Face 
was full and long ; from his Crown to the end of his 
Nose was the shorter half of it, so that the Dispro- 
portion of his lower Features, when soberly com- 
pos'd, with an unwandering Eye hanging over them, 
threw him into the most lumpish, moping Mortal 
that ever made Beholders merry ! not but at other 
times he could be wakened into Spirit equally ridi- 
culous In the course, rustick Humour of Justice 

Clodpate, in Epsome Wells^ he was a delightful Brute ! 
and in the blunt Vivacity of Sir Sampson, in Love for 
Love, he shew'd all that true perverse Spirit that is 
commonly seen in much Wit and Ill-nature. This 
Character is one of those few so well written, with 
so much Wit and Humour, that an Actor must be 
the grossest Dunce that does not appear with an 
unusual Life in it : But it will still shew as great a 
Proportion of Skill to come near Underhil in the 
acting it, which (not to undervalue those who soon 
came after him) I have not yet seen. He was par- 
ticularly admir'd too for the Grave-digger in Hamlet. 
The Author of the Tatler recommends him to the 
Favour of the Town upon that Play's being acted 
for his Benefit, wherein, after his Age had some 
Years oblig'd him to leave the Stage, he came on 
again, for that Day, to perform his old Part ; ^ but, 

' By Shadwell. 

- Underhill seems to have partially retired about the beginning 
of 1707. Replayed Sir Joslin JoUey on 5th December, 1706, 
but Bullock played it on gih January, 1707, and, two days after, 

L 



156 THE LIFE OF 

alas ! so worn and disabled, as if himself was to have 
lain in the Grave he was digging; when he could 
no more excite Laughter, his Infirmities were dis- 
miss'd with Pity : He dy'd soon after, a super- 
annuated Pensioner in the List of those who were 
supported by the joint Sharers under the first Patent 
granted to Sir Richard Steele. 

The deep Impressions of these excellent Actors 
which I receiv'd in my Youth, I am afraid may 
have drawn me into the common Foible of us old 
Fellows ; which is a Fondness, and perhaps a tedious 
Partiality, for the Pleasures we have formerly tasted, 
and think are now fallen off because we can no 
longer enjoy them. If therefore I lie under that 
Suspicion, tho' I have related nothing incredible or 
out of the reach of a good Judge's Conception, I 

Johnson played Underhill's part of the First Gravedigger. Under- 
hill, however, played in "The Rover" on 20th January, 1707. 
The benefit Gibber refers to took place on 3rd June, 1709. 
Underbill played the Gravedigger again on 23rd February, 17 10, 
and on 12th May, 17 10, for his benefit, he played Trincalo in 
"The Tempest." Genest says he acted at Greenwich on 26th 
August, 1 7 10. The advertisement in the "Tatler" (26th May, 
1709) runs: "Mr. Cave Underbill, the famous Comedian in the 
Reigns of K. Charles ii. K. James ii. K. William and Q. Mary, 
and her present Majesty Q. Anne; but now not able to perform 
so often as heretofore in the Play-house, and having had losses to 
the value of near ^2,500, is to have the Tragedy of Hamlet 
acted for his Benefit, on Friday the third of June next, at the 
Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, in which he is to perform his 
Original Part, the Grave-Maker. Tickets may be had at the Mitre- 
Tavern in Fleet-Street." See also memoir of Underbill at end 
of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 57 

must appeal to those Few who are about my own 
Age for the Truth and Likeness of these Theatrical 
Portraicts. 

There were at this time several others in some 
degree of Favour with the Publick, Powel,^ Ver- 
bi'uggen^ Williams,^ &c. But as I cannot think 
their best Improvements made them in any wise 
equal to those I have spoke' of, I ought not to range 
them in the same Class. Neither were Wilks or 
Dogget yet come to the Stage ; nor was Booth 
initiated till about six Years after them ; or Mrs. 
Oldjield known till the Year 1 700. I must there- 
fore reserve the four last for their proper Period, 
and proceed to the Actresses that were famous 

^ See memoir of Powel at end of second volume. 

* John Verbruggen, whose name Downes spells " Vanbruggen," 
"Vantbrugg," and "Verbruggen," is first recorded as having 
played Termagant in " The Squire of Alsatia," at the Theatre 
Royal, in 1688. His name last appears in August, 1707, and he 
must have died not long after. On 26th April, 1708, a benefit 
was announced for " a young orphan child of the late Mr. and 
Mrs. Verbruggen." He seems to have been an actor of great 
natural power, but inartistic in method. See what Anthony 
Aston says of him. Gibber unfairly, as we must think, seems 
carefully to avoid mentioning him as of any importance. " The 
Laureat," p. 58, says : " I wonder, considering our Author's 
Particularity of Memory, that he hardly ever mentions Mr. Ver- 

bruggen, who was in many Characters an excellent Actor 

I cannot conceive why Verbruggen is left out of the Number of 
his excellent Actors ; whether some latent Grudge, alia Mente 
repostuin, has robb'd him of his Immortality in this Work." See 
also memoir of Verbruggen at end of second volume. 

^ See memoir of Williams at end of second volume. 



158 THE LIFE OF 

with Betterton at the latter end of the last Cen- 
tury. 

Mrs. Barry was then in possession of almost all 
the chief Parts in Tragedy : With what Skill she 
gave Life to them you will judge from the Words 
of Dryden in his Preface to Cleomenes,^ where he 
says, 

Mrs. Barry, always excellent, has in this Tragedy 
excelled herself, and gain d a Reputation beyond any 
Woman I have ever seen on the Theatre. 

I very perfectly remember her acting that Part ; 
and however unnecessary it may seem to give my 
Judgment after Dryden s, I cannot help saying I do 
not only close with his Opinion, but will venture to 
add that (tho' Dryden has been dead these Thirty 
Eight Years) the same Compliment to this Hour 
may be due to her Excellence. And tho' she was 
then not a little past her Youth, she was not till 
that time fully arriv'd to her maturity of Power and 
Judgment : From whence I would observe, That 
the short Life of Beauty is not long enough to form 
a complete Actress. In Men the Delicacy of Per- 
son is not so absolutely necessary, nor the Decline 
of it so soon taken notice of. The Fame Mrs. 
Barry arriv'd to is a particular Proof of the Diffi- 
culty there is in judging with Certainty, from their 
first Trials, whether young People will ever make 

^ Produced at the Theatre Royal in 1692, 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 1 59 

any great Figure on a Theatre. There was, it 
seems, so little Hope of Mrs. Barry at her first 
setting out, that she was at the end of the first 
Year discharg'd the Company, among others that 
were thought to be a useless Expence to it. I take 
it for granted that the Objection to Mrs. Barry at 
that time must have been a defective Ear, or some 
unskilful Dissonance in her manner of pronouncing : 
But where there is a proper Voice and Person, with 
the Addition of a good Understanding, Experience 
tells us that such Defect is not always invincible ; of 
which not only Mrs. Barjy, but the late Mrs. Oldfield 
are eminent Instances. Mrs. Oldfield had been a 
Year in the Theatre-Royal before she was observ'd 
to give any tolerable Hope of her being an Actress; 
so unlike to all manner of Propriety was her Speak- 
ing ! ' How unaccountably, then, does a Genius for 
the Stage make its way towards Perfection ? For, 
notwithstanding these equal Disadvantages, both 
these Actresses, tho' of different Excellence, made 
themselves complete Mistresses of their Art by the 
Prevalence of their Understanding. If this Obser- 
vation may be of any use to the Masters of future 
Theatres, I shall not then have made it to no 
purpose.^ 

^ In Chapter IX. of this work Gibber gives an elaborate account 
of Mrs. Oldfield. He remarks there that, after her joining the 
company, " she remain'd about a Twelvemonth almost a Mute, 
and unheeded." 

''- See memoir of IMrs. Barry at end of second volume. 



l60 THE LIFE OF 

Mrs. Barry, in Characters of Greatness, had a 
Presence of elevated Dignity, her Mien and Motion 
superb and gracefully majestick ; her Voice full, 
clear, and strong, so that no Violence of Passion 
could be too much for her : And when Distress or 
Tenderness possess'd her, she subsided into the most 
affecting Melody and Softness. In the Art of ex- 
citing Pity she had a Power beyond all the Actresses 
I have yet seen, or what your Imagination can con- 
ceive. Of the former of these two great Excellencies 
she gave the most delightful Proofs in almost all the 
Heroic Plays of Dry den and Lee; and of the latter, 
in the softer Passions of Otways Monimia and Bel- 
videra} In Scenes of Anger, Defiance, or Resent- 
ment, while she was impetuous and terrible, she 
pour'd out the Sentiment with an enchanting Har- 
mony ; and it was this particular Excellence for 
which Drydeji made her the above-recited Compli- 
ment upon her acting Cassandra in his Cleomenes. 
But here I am apt to think his Partiality for that 
Character may have tempted his Judgment to let It 
pass for her Master-piece, when he could not but 
know there were several other Characters in which 
her Action might have given her a fairer Pretence 
to the Praise he has bestow'd on her for Cassandra ; 
for in no Part of that is there the least ground for 
Compassion, as in Monimia, nor equal cause for Ad- 
miration, as in the nobler Love of Cleopatra, or the 

' In "The Orphan," produced at Dorset Garden in 1680, and 
in " Venice Preserved," produced at the same theatre in 1682 




ELIZABETH BARRV 



I 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. l6l 

tempestuous Jealousy of Roxana} 'Twas in these 
Lights I thought Mrs. Barry shone with a much 
brighter Excellence than in Cassandra. She was 
the first Person whose Merit was distinguish'd by 
the Indulgence of having an annual Benefit- Play, 
which was granted to her alone, if I mistake not, first 
in YJ\xv^ James s time,^ and which became not common 
to others 'till the Division of this Company after the 
Death of King William's Queen Maiy. This great 
Actress dy'd of a Fever towards the latter end of 
Queen Anne ; the Year I have forgot ; but perhaps 
you will recollect it by an Expression that fell from 
her in blank Verse, in her last Hours, when she was 
delirious, viz. 

Ha, ha ! and so they make us Loj'ds, by Dozens ! ' 

Mrs. Bettei'ton, tho' far advanc'd in Years, was so 

^ In " The Rival Queens." Mrs. Marshall was the original 
Roxana, at the Theatre Royal in 1677. So far as we know, Mrs. 
Barry had not played Cleopatra (Dryden's "All for Love") when 
Dryden wrote the eulogy Gibber quotes. Mrs. Boutell originally 
acted the part. Theatre Royal, 1678. 

^ Bellchambers contradicts Gibber, saying that the Agreement of 
1 4th October, 1 68 1 [see Memoir of Hart], shows that benefits existed 
then. The words referred to are, " the day the young men or young 
women play for their own profit only." But this day set aside for the 
young people playing was, I think, quite a different matter from a 
benefit to a particular performer. Pepys {21st March, 1667) says, 
" The young men and women of the house . . . having liberty to 
act for their own profit on Wednesdays and Fridays this Lent." 
These were evidently " scratch " performances on "off" nights; 
and it is to these, I think, that the agreement quoted refers. 

' As Dr. Doran points out ("Their Majesties' Servants," 1888 



l62 THE LIFE OF 

great a Mistress of Nature that even Mrs. Barry, 
who acted the Lady Macbeth after her, could not in 
that Part, with all her superior Strength and Melody 
of Voice, throw out those quick and careless Strokes 
of Terror from the Disorder of a guilty Mind, which 
the other gave us with a Facility in her Manner 
that render'd them at once tremendous and delightful. 
Time could not impair her Skill, tho' he had brought 
her Person to decay. She was, to the last, the Ad- 
miration of all true Judges of Nature and Lovers of 
Shakespcar, in whose Plays she chiefly excell'd, and 
without a Rival. When she quitted the Stage 
several good Actresses were the better for her In- 
struction. She was a Woman of an unblemish'd 
and sober life, and had the Honour to teach Queen 
Anne, when Princess, the Part of Semandra in Mith- 
ridates, which she acted at Court in King Cha^'les?, 
time. After the Death of Mr. Betterton, her Hus- 
band, that Princess, when Queen, order'd her a Pen- 
sion for Life, but she liv'd not to receive more than 
the first half Year of it.^ 

Mrs. Leigh, the Wife of Leigh already mention'd, 
had a very droll way of dressing the pretty Foibles 
of superannuated Beauties. She had in her self a 
good deal of Humour, and knew how to infuse it 

edition, i. i6o) this does not settle the question so easily as Gibber 
supposes. Twelve Tory peers were created by Queen Anne in 
the last few days of 1711, and Mrs. Barry did not die till the end 
of 1713. 

' See memoir of Mrs. Betterton at end of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 63 

into the affected Mothers, Aunts, and modest stale 
Maids that had miss'd their Market ; of this sort 
were the Modish Mother in the Chances, affecting to 
be politely commode for her own Daughter ; the 
Coquette Prude of an Aunt in Sir Courtly Nice, 
who prides herself in being chaste and cruel at Fifty ; 
and the languishing Lady Wishfo^H in The Way of 
the World: In all these, with many others, she was 
extremely entertaining, and painted in a lively 
manner the blind Side of Nature.^ 

Mrs. BiUler, who had her Christian Name of 
CJiarlotte given her by King Charles, was the 
Daughter of a decay'd Knight, and had the Honour 
of that Prince's Recommendation to the Theatre ; a 
provident Restitution, giving to the Stage in kind 
what he had sometimes taken from it : The Publick 
at least was oblig'd by it ; for she prov'd not only a 
good Actress, but was allow'd in those Days to sing 
and dance to great Perfection. In the Dramatick 
Operas of Dioclesian and that of King Arthur, she 

^ Downes includes Mrs. Leigh among the recruits to the Duke's 
Company about 1670. He does not give her maiden name, but 
Genest supposes she may have been the daughter of Dixon, one 
of Rhodes's Company. As there are two actresses of the name 
of Mrs. Leigh, and one Mrs. Lee, and as no reliance can be 
placed on the spelling of names in the casts of plays, it is practi- 
cally impossible to decide accurately the parts each played. This 
Mrs. Leigh seems to have been Elizabeth, and her name does not 
appear after 1707, the Eli. Leigh who signed the petition to Queen 
Anne in 1709 being probably a younger woman. Bellchambers 
has a most inaccurate note regarding Mrs. Leigh, stating that she 
" is probably not a distinct person from Mrs. Mary Lee." 



164 THE LIFE OF 

was a capital and admired Performer. In speaking, 
too, she had a sweet-ton'd Voice, which, with her 
naturally genteel Air and sensible Pronunciation, 
render'd her wholly Mistress of the Amiable in many 
serious Characters. In Parts of Humour, too, she 
had a manner of blending her assuasive Softness 
even with the Gay, the Lively, and the Alluring. 
Of this she gave an agreeable Instance in her Action 
of the ( Villiers) Duke of Buckingham s second Con- 
stantia in the Chances. In which, if I should say I 
have never seen her exceeded, I might still do no 
wrong to the late Mrs. Oldfield's lively Performance 
of the same Character. Mrs. Oldfield's Fame may 
spare Mrs. Butler s Action this Compliment, without 
the least Diminution or Dispute of her Superiority 
in Characters of more moment.^ 

Here I cannot help observing, when there was but 
one Theatre in London, at what unequal Sallaries, 
compar'd to those of later Days, the hired Actors were 
then held by the absolute Authority of their frugal 
Masters the Patentees ; for Mrs. Butler had then 
but Forty Shillings a Week, and could she have 

' Mrs. Charlotte Butler is mentioned by Downes as entering 
the Duke's Company about the year 1673. By 169 1 she occupied 
an important position as an actress, and in 1692 her name appears 
to the part of La Pupsey in Durfey's " Marriage-Hater Matched." 
This piece must have been produced early in the year, for Ashbury, 
by whom, as Cibber relates, she was engaged for Dublin, opened 
his season on 23rd March, 1692. Hitchcock, in his "View of 
the Irish Stage," describes her as " an actress of great repute, 
and a prodigious favourite with King Charles the Second " (i. 21). 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 65 

obtain'd an Addition of Ten Shillings more (which 
was refus'd her) would never have left their Service ; 
but being offer'd her own Conditions to go with Mr. 
Ashbury ^ to Dublin (who was then raising a Com- 
pany of Actors for that Theatre, where there had 
been none since the Revolution) her Discontent 
here prevail'd with her to accept of his Offer, and he 
found his Account in her Value. Were not those 
Patentees most sagacious Oeconomists that could 
lay hold on so notable an Expedient to lessen their 
Charge ? How gladly, in my time of being a Sharer, 
would we have given four times her Income to an 
Actress of equal Merit ? 

Mrs. Monfort, whose second Marriage gave her 
the Name of Verbrttggen, was Mistress of more 
variety of Humour than I ever knew in any one 
Woman Actress. This variety, too, was attended 
with an equal Vivacity, which made her excellent in 
Characters extremely different. As she was natu- 
rally a pleasant Mimick, she had the Skill to make 

^ Chetwood gives a long account of Joseph Ashbury. He was 
born in 1638, and served for some years in the army. By the 
favour of the Duke of Ormond, then Lord Lieutenant, Ashbury 
was appointed successively Deputy-Master and Master of the 
Revels in Ireland. The latter appointment he seems to have 
received in 1682, though Hitchcock says " 1672." Ashbury 
managed the Dublin Theatre with propriety and success, and was 
considered not only the principal actor in his time there, but the 
best teacher of acting in the three kingdoms. Chetwood, who 
saw him in his extreme old age, pronounced him admirable both 
in Tragedy and Comedy. He died in 1720, at the great age 
of eighty-two. 



1 66 THE LIFE OF 

that Talent useful on the Stage, a Talent which may- 
be surprising in a Conversation and yet be lost when 
brought to the Theatre, which was the Case of 
Estcoicrt already mention'd : But where the Elocution 
is round, distinct, voluble, and various, as Mrs. 
Monforts, was, the Mimick there is a great Assistant 
to the Actor. Nothing, tho' ever so barren, if within 
the Bounds of Nature, could be flat in her Hands. 
She gave many heightening Touches to Characters 
but coldly written, and often made an Author vain 
of his Work that in it self had but little Merit. She 
was so fond of Humour, in what low Part soever to 
be found, that she would make no scruple of defacing 
her fair Form to come heartily into it ; ^ for when 
she was eminent in several desirable Characters of 
Wit and Humour in higher Life, she would be in as 
much Fancy when descending into the antiquated 
AbigaiP of Fletcher, as when triumphing in all the 
Airs and vain Graces of a fine Lady ; a Merit that 
few Actresses care for. In a Play of Dttrfey?,, now 
foreotten, call'd The Western Lass^ which Part she 
acted, she transform'd her whole Being, Body, Shape, 
Voice, Language, Look, and Features, into almost 

^ This artistic sense was shown also by Margaret Woffington, 
Davies ("Life of Garrick," 4th edition, i. 315) writes : "in Mrs. 
Day, in the Committee, she made no scruple to disguise her 
beautiful countenance, by drawing on it the lines of deformity and 
the wrinkles of old age, and to put on the tawdry habiliments and 
vulgar manners of an old hypocritical city vixen." 

' In " The Scornful Lady." 

" " The Bath ; or, the Western Lass," produced at Drury Lane 
in 1701, 



MR. COLLKY GIBBER. 1 6/ 

another Animal, with a strong Devonshire Dialect, 
a broad laughing Voice, a poking Head, round 
Shoulders, an unconceiving Eye, and the most be- 
diz'ning, dowdy Dress that ever cover'd the untrain'd 
Limbs of a Joan Trot. To have seen her here you 
would have thought it impossible the same Creature 
could ever have been recover'd to what was as easy 
to her, the Gay, the Lively, and the Desirable. Nor 
was her Humour limited to her Sex ; for, while her 
Shape permitted, she was a more adroit pretty Fellow 
than is usually seen upon the Stage : Her easy Air, 
Action, Mien, and Gesture quite chang'd from the 
Quoif to the cock'd Hat and Cavalier in fashion.^ 
People were so fond of seeing her a Man, that when 
the Part of Bays in the Rehearsal had for some time 
lain dormant, she was desired to take it up, which I 
have seen her act with all the true coxcombly Spirit 
and Humour that the Sufficiency of the Character 
required. 

But what found most Employment for her whole 
various Excellence at once, was the Part of Mela^itha 
in Marriage- A laniode? Melantha is as finish'd an 
Impertinent as ever flutter'd in a Drawing- Room, 
and seems to contain the most compleat System of 
Female Foppery that could possibly be crowded into 

1 It is curious to compare with this Anthony Aston's outspoken 
criticism on Mrs. Mountfort's personal appearance. 

^ Anthony Aston says " Melantha was her Masterpiece." Dry- 
den's comedy w^as produced at the Theatre Royal in 1672, when 
Mrs. Boutell played Melantha. 



1 68 THE LIFE OF 

the tortured Form of a Fine Lady. Her Language, 
Dress, Motion, Manners, Soul, and Body, are in a 
continual Hurry to be something more than is neces- 
sary or commendable. And though I doubt it will 
be a vain Labour to offer you a just Likeness of Mrs. 
Monfo7^t's Action, yet the fantastick Impression is 
still so strong in my Memory that I cannot help 
saying something, tho' fantastically, about it. The 
first ridiculous Airs that break from her are upon a 
Gallant never seen before, who delivers her a Letter 
from her Father recommending him to her good 
Graces as an honourable Lover. ^ Here now, one 
would think, she might naturally shew a little of the 
Sexe's decent Reserve, tho' never so slightly cover'd ! 
No, Sir ; not a Tittle of it ; Modesty is the Virtue 
of a poor-soul'd Country Gentlewoman ; she is too 
much a Court Lady to be under so vulgar a Confu- 
sion ; she reads the Letter, therefore, with a careless, 
dropping Lip and an erected Brow, humming it 
hastily over as if she were impatient to outgo her 
Father's Commands by making a compleat Conquest 
of him at once ; and that the Letter might not em- 
barrass her Attack, crack ! she crumbles it at once 
into her Palm and pours upon him her whole Artil- 
lery of Airs, Eyes, and Motion ; down goes her 
dainty, diving Body to the Ground, as if she were 
sinking under the conscious Load of her own Attrac- 
tions ; then launches into a Flood of fine Language 

^ Act ii. scene i. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 69 

and Compliment, still playing her Chest forward in 
fifty Falls and Risings, like a Swan upon waving 
Water; and, to complete her Impertinence, she is so 
rapidly fond of her own Wit that she will not give 
her Lover Leave to praise it : Silent assenting Bows 
and vain Endeavours to speak are all the share of 
the Conversation he is admitted to, which at last he 
is relieved from by her Engagement to half a Score 
Visits, which she swims from him to make, with a 
Promise to return in a Twinkling. 

If this Sketch has Colour enough to give you any 
near Conception of her, I then need only tell you 
that throughout the whole Character her variety of 
Humour was every way proportionable ; as, indeed, 
in most Parts that she thought worth her care or 
that had the least Matter for her Fancy to work 
upon, I may justly say, That no Actress, from her 
own Conception, could have heighten'd them with 
more lively Strokes of Nature/ 

^ Mrs. Mountfort, originally Mrs. (that is Miss) Percival, and 
afterwards Mrs. Verbruggen, is first mentioned as the representa- 
tive of Winifrid, a young Welsh jilt, in " Sir Barnaby Whigg," a 
comedy produced at the Theatre Royal in 168 1. As Diana, in 
"The Lucky Chance" (1687), Genest gives her name as Mrs. 
Mountfort, late Mrs. Percival ; so that her marriage with Mount- 
fort must have taken place about the end of 1686 or beginning of 
1687. Mountfort was killed in 1692, and in 1694 the part of 
Mary the Buxom, in " Don Quixote," part first, is recorded by 
Genest as played by Mrs. Verbruggen, late Mrs. Mountfort. In 
1702, in the "Comparison between the Two Stages," Gildon pro- 
nounces her "a miracle." In 1703 she died. She was the 
original representative of, among other characters, Nell, in " Devil 



I/O THE LIFE OF 

I come now to the last, and only living Person, of 
all those whose Theatrical Characters I have pro- 
mised you, Mrs. Bracegirdle ; who, I know, would 
rather pass her remaining Days forgotten as an 
Actress, than to have her Youth recollected in the 
most favourable Light I am able to place it ; yet, as 
she is essentially necessary to my Theatrical History, 
and as I only bring her back to the Company of 
those with whom she pass'd the Spring and Summer 
of her Life, I hope it will excuse the Liberty I take 
in commemorating the Delight which the Publick 
received from her Appearance while she was an 
Ornament to tha Theatre. 

Mrs. Bracegirdle was now but just blooming to her 
Maturity ; her Reputation as an Actress gradually 
rising with that of her Person ; never any Woman 
was in such general Favour of her Spectators, which, 
to the last Scene of her Dramatick Life, she main- 
tain'd by not being unguarded in her private Cha- 
racter.^ This Discretion contributed not a little to 

of a Wife;" Belinda, in "The Old Bachelor;" Lady Froth, in 
"The Double Dealer;" Charlott Welldon, in "Oroonoko;" 
Berinthia, in "Relapse;" Lady Lurewell ; Lady Brumpton, in 
" The Funeral ;" Hypolita, in " She Would and She Would Not ;" 
and Hillaria, in " Tunbridge Walks." 

^ Bellchambers has here a most uncharitable note, which I 
quote as curious, though I must add that there is not a shadow of 
proof of the truth of it. 

" Mrs. Bracegirdle was decidedly not ' unguarded ' in her con- 
duct, for though the object of general suspicion, no proof of posi- 
tive unchastity was ever brought against her. Her intrigue with 
Mountfort, who lost his life in consequence of it, (i) is hardly to 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. Ijl 

make her the Cara, the Darling of the Theatre : For 
it will be no extravagant thing to say, Scarce an 
Audience saw her that were less than half of them 
Lovers, without a suspected Favourite among them : 

be disputed, and there is pretty ample evidence that Congreve 
was honoured with a gratification of his amorous desires. (2) 



(i) " ' We had not parted with him as many minutes as a man 
may beget his likeness in, but who should we meet but Mountfort 
the player, looking as pale as a ghost, sailing forward as gently as 
a caterpillar 'cross a sycamore leaf, gaping for a little air, like a 
sinner just come out of the powdering-tub, crying out as he crept 
towards us, " O my back ! Confound 'em for a pack of brimstones : 
O my back !" — "How now, Sir Courtly,'' said I, "what the devil 
makes thee in this pickle ? " — " O, gentlemen," says he, " I am glad 
to see you ; but I am troubled with such a weakness in my back, 
that it makes me bend like a superannuated fornicator." "Some 
strain," said I, " got in the other world, with overheaving yourself." 
— " What matters it how 'twas got," says he ; " can you tell me any- 
thing that's good for it ? " " Yes," said I ; " get a warm girdle and 
tie round you ; 'tis an excellent corroborative to strengthen the 
loins." — "Pox on you," says he, "for a bantering dog ! how can a 
single girdle do me good, when a Brace was my destruction?"' — 
Brown's 'Letters from the Dead to the Living' [1744, ii. 186]. 

(2) " In one of those infamous collections known by the name of 
' Poems on State Affairs ' [iv. 49], there are several obvious, 
though coarse and detestable, hints of this connexion. Collier's 
severity against the stage is thus sarcastically deprecated, in a short 
piece called the ' Benefits of a Theatre.' 

Shall a place be put down, when we see it affords 
Fit wives for great poets, and whores for great lords? 
Since Angelica, bless'd with a singular grace, 
Had, by her fine acting, preserv'd all his plays. 
In an amorous rapture, young Valentine said. 
One so fit for his plays might be fit for his bed. 

M 



172 THE LIFE OF 

And tho' she miCTht be said to have been the Universal 
Passion, and under the highest Temptations, her 
Constancy in resisting them served but to increase 
the number of her Admirers : And this perhaps you 
will more easily believe when I extend not my En- 
comiums on her Person beyond a Sincerity that can 
be suspected ; for she had no greater Claim to 
Beauty than what the most desirable Brtniette might 
pretend to. But her Youth and lively Aspect threw 
out such a Glow of Health and Chearfulness, that on 
the Stage few Spectators that were not past it could 
behold her without Desire. It was even a Fashion 
among the Gay and Young to have a Taste or Tendre 
for Mrs. Bracegirdle. She inspired the best Authors 
to write for her, and two of them,^ when they gave 
her a Lover in a Play, seem'd palpably to plead their 
own Passions, and make their private Court to her in 

" The allusion to Congreve and Mrs. Bracegirdle wants, of course, 
no corroboration ; but the hint at their marriage, broached in the 
half line I have italicised, is a curious though unauthorized fact. 
From the verses I shall continue to quote, it will appear that this 
marriage between the parties, though thought to be private, was 
currently believed ; it is an expedient that has often been used, in 
similar cases, to cover the nakedness of outrageous lust. 
He warmly pursues her, she yielded her charms. 
And bless'd the kind youngster in her kinder arms : 
But at length the poor nymph did for justice implore, 

And his married her now, though he'd her before. 

" On a subsequent page of the same precious miscellany, there is 
a most offensive statement of the cause which detached our great 
comic writer from the object of his passion. The thing is too 
filthy to be even described." 
^ Rowe and Congreve. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBKR. I 73 

fictitious Characters. In all the chief Parts she acted, 
the Desirable was so predominant, that no Judge 
could be cold enough to consider from what other 
particular Excellence she became delightful. To 
speak critically of an Actress that was extremely- 
good were as hazardous as to be positive in one's 
Opinion of the best Opera Singer. People often 
judge by Comparison where there is no Similitude 
in the Performance. So that, in this case, we have 
only Taste to appeal to, and of Taste there can be 
no disputing. 1 shall therefore only say of Mrs. 
Bracegirdle, That the most eminent Authors always 
chose her for their favourite Character, and shall 
leave that uncontestable Proof of her Merit to its 
own Value. Yet let me say, there were two very 
different Characters in which she acquitted herself 
with uncommon Applause : If any thing could ex- 
cuse that desperate Extravagance of Love, that 
almost frantick Passion of Lee^ Alexander the Great, 
it must have been when Mrs. Bracegirdle was his 
Statira : As when she acted Millamant ^ all the 
Faults, trollies, and Affectations of that agreeable 
Tyrant were venially melted down into so many 
Charms and Attractions of a conscious Beauty. In 
other Characters, where Singing was a necessary 
Part of them, her Voice and Action gave a Pleasure 
which good Sense, in those Days, was not asham'd 
to give Praise to. 

She retir'd from the Stare in the HeiMit of her 
' In Congrcve's "Way of the World." 



174 THE LIFE OF 

Favour from the Publick, when most of her Cotem- 
poraries whom she had been bred up with were declin- 
ing, in the Year 1710/ nor could she be persuaded 
to return to it under new Masters upon the most ad- 
vantageous Terms that were offered her ; excepting 
one Day, about a Year after, to assist her good Friend 
Mr. Betterton, when she play'd Angelica in Love for 
Love for his Benefit. She has still the Happiness to 
retain her usual Chearfulness, and to be, without the 
transitory Charm of Youth, agreeable.^ 

If, in my Account of these memorable Actors, I 

^ Gibber's chronology is a little shaky here. Mrs. Bracegirdle's 
name appeared for the last time in the bill of 20th February, 1707. 
Betterton's benefit, for which she returned to the stage for one 
night, took place on 7th April, 1709. 

^ Mrs. Anne Bracegirdle made her first appearance on the 
stage as a very young child. In the cast of Otway's " Orphan," 
t68o, the part of Cordelio, Polydore's Page, is said to be played 
by " the little girl," who, Curll (" History," p. 26) informs us, was 
Anne Bracegirdle, then less than six years of age. In 1688 her 
name appears to the part of Lucia in " The Squire of Alsatia ; " 
but it is not till 1691 that she can be said to have regularly 
entered upon her career as an actress. She was the original 
representative of some of the most famous heroines in comedy : 
Araminta, in "The Old Bachelor;" Cynthia, in "The Double 
Dealer ; " Angelica, in " Love for Love ; " Belinda, in " The Pro- 
voked Wife ; " Millamant ; Flippanta, in " The Confederacy," 
and many others. Mrs. Bracegirdle appears to have been a good 
and excellent woman, as well as a great actress. All the scandal 
about her seems to have had no further foundation than, to quote 
Genest, " the extreme difficulty with which an actress at this period 
of the stage must have preserved her chastity." Genest goes on to 
remark, with delicious naivete, "Mrs. Bracegirdle was perhaps a 
woman of a cold constitution." Her retirement from the stage 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I 75 

have not deviated from Truth, which, in the least 
Article, I am not conscious of, may we not venture 
to say, They had not their Equals, at any one Time, 
upon any Theatre in Europe'^ Or, if we confine 
the Comparison to that of France alone, I believe 
no other Stage can be much disparag'd by being 
left out of the question ; which cannot properly be 
decided by the single Merit of any one Actor ; 
whether their Bai'on or our Bettcrto7i might be 
the Superior, (take which Side you please) that 
Point reaches, either way, but to a thirteenth part of 
what I contend for, viz. That no Stage, at any one 
Period, could shew thirteen Actors, standing all in 
equal Lights of Excellence in their Profession : And 
I am the bolder, in this Challenge to any other 
Nation, because no Theatre having so extended a 

when not much over thirty is accounted for by Curll, by a story of 
a competition between her and Mrs. Oldfield in the part of Mrs. 
Brittle in " The Amorous Widow," in which the latter was the more 
applauded. He says that they played the part on two successive 
nights ; but I have carefully examined Dr. Burney's MSS. in the 
British Museum for the season 1 706-7, and " The Amorous Widow " 
was certainly not played twice successively. I doubt the story 
altogether. That Mrs. Bracegirdle retired because Mrs. Oldfield 
was excelling her in popular estimation is most likely, but I can 
find no confirmation whatever for Curll's story. " The Laureat," 
p. 36, attributes her retirement to Mrs. Oldfield's being " preferr'd 
to some Parts before her, by our very Apologist " ; but though the 
reason thus given is probably accurate, the person blamed is as 
probably guiltless ; for I do not think Gibber could have sufficient 
authority to distribute parts in 1706-7. Mrs. Bracegirdle died 
September, 1748, but was dead to the stage from 1709. Gibber's 
remark on p. 99 had therefore no reference to her. 



176 THE LIFE OF 

Variety of natural Characters as the English, can 
have a Demand for Actors of such various Capaci- 
ties ; why then, where they could not be equally 
wanted, should we suppose them, at any one time, to 
have existed ? 

How imperfect soever this copious Account of 
them may be, I am not without Hope, at least, it 
may in some degree shew what Talents are requisite 
to make Actors valuable : And if that may any ways 
inform or assist the Judgment of future Spectators, 
it may as often be of service to their publick Enter- 
tainments ; for as their Hearers are, so will Actors 
be ; worse, or better, as the false or true Taste ap- 
plauds or discommends them. Hence only can our 
Theatres improve or must degenerate. 

There is another Point, relating to the hard Con- 
dition of those who write for the Stage, which I would 
recommend to the Consideration of their Hearers ; 
which is, that the extreme Severity with which they 
damn a bad Play seems too terrible a Warning to 
those whose untried Genius might hereafter give 
them a good one : Whereas it might be a Tempta- 
tion to a latent Author to make the Experiment, 
could he be sure that, though not approved, his 
Muse might at least be dismiss'd with Decency: 
But the Vivacity of our modern Criticks is of late 
grown so riotous, that an unsuccessful Author has no 
more Mercy shewn him than a notorious Cheat in 
a Pillory ; every Fool, the lowest Member of the Mob, 
becomes a Wit, and will have a fling at him. They 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 177 

come now to a new Play like Hounds to a Carcase, 
and are all In a full Cry, sometimes for an Hour 
together, before the Curtain rises to throw it amongst 
them. Sure those Gentlemen cannot but allow that 
a Play condemned after a fair Hearing falls with 
thrice the Ignominy as when it is refused that com- 
mon Justice. 

But when their critical Interruptions grow so loud, 
and of so long a Continuance, that the Attention of 
quiet People (though not so complete Criticks) is 
terrify 'd, and the Skill of the Actors quite discon- 
certed by the Tumult, the Play then seems rather to 
fall by Assassins than by a Lawful Sentence.^ Is it 
possible that such Auditors can receive Delight, or 
think it any Praise to them, to prosecute so injurious, 
so unmanly a Treatment ? And tho' perhaps the 
Compassionate, on the other side (who know they 
have as good a Right to clap and support, as others 
have to catcall, damn, and destroy,) may oppose this 
Oppression; their Good- nature, alas! contributes 
little to the Redress ; for in this sort of Civil War 
the unhappy Author, like a good Prince, while his 
Subjects are at mortal Variance, is sure to be a Loser 
by a Victory on either Side ; for still the Common- 
wealth, his Play, is, during the Conflict, torn to pieces. 
While this is the Case, while the Theatre is so tur- 
bulent a Sea and so infested with Pirates, what 

' Gibber writes here with feeling; for, after his "Nonjuror" 
abused the Jacobites and Nonjurors, that party took every oppor- 
tunity of revenging themselves on him by maltreating his plays. 



I 78 THE LIFE OF 

Poetical Merchant of any Substance will venture to 
trade in it ? If these valiant Gentlemen pretend to 
be Lovers of Plays, why will they deter Gentlemen 
from giving them such as are fit for Gentlemen to 
see ? In a word, this new Race of Cri ticks seem to 
me like the Lion-Whelps in the Tower, who are so 
boisterously gamesome at their Meals that they dash 
down the Bowls of Milk brought for their own 
Breakfast.' 

As a good Play is certainly the most rational and 
the highest Entertainment that Human Invention 
can produce, let that be my Apology (if I need any) 
for having thus freely deliver'd my Mind in behalf 
of those Gentlemen who, under such calamitous 
Hazards, may hereafter be reduced to write for the 
Stage, whose Case I shall compassionate from the 
same Motive that prevail'd on Dido to assist the 
Trojans in Distress. 

Non ignara malt miseris siiccurrere disco. Virg.^ 

Or, as Dry den has it, 

/ learn to pity Woes so like my own. 

If those particular Gentlemen have sometimes 
made me the humbled Object of their Wit and 
Humour, their Triumph at least has done me this 
involuntary Service, that it has driven me a Year or 
two sooner into a quiet Life than otherwise my own 

^ See a7ite, p. 63, for an allusion to this passage by Fielding 
in " The Champion." 
^ ^neid, i. 630. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 79 

want of Judgment might have led me to : ^ I left the 
Stage before my Strength left me, and tho' I came to 
it again for some few Days a Year or two after, my 
Reception there not only turn'd to my Account, but 
seem'd a fair Invitation that I would make my Visits 
more frequent : But to give over a Winner can be 
no very imprudent Resolution.^ 

^ This is a curious statement, and has never, so far as I know, 
been commented on ; the cause of Gibber's retirement having 
always been considered mysterious. I suppose this reference to 
ill-treatment must be held as confirming Davies's statement that 
the public lost patience at Gibber's continually playing tragic parts, 
and fairly hissed him off the stage. Davies (" Dram. Misc.," iii. 
471) relates the following incident: "When Thomson's Sopho- 
nisba was read to the actors, Gibber laid his hand upon Scipio, 
a character, which, though it appears only in the last act, is of 
great dignity and importance. For two nights successively, Gibber 
was as much exploded as any bad actor could be. Williams, by 
desire of Wilks, made himself master of the part ; but he, march- 
ing slowly, in great military distinction, from the upper part of the 
stage, and wearing the same dress as Gibber, was mistaken for 
him, and met with repeated hisses, joined to the music of cat- 
cals ; but, as soon as the audience were undeceived, they con- 
verted their groans and hisses to loud and long continued applause." 

' Gibber retired in May, 1733. The reappearance he refers to 
was not that he made in 1738, as Bellchambers states. He no 
doubt alludes to his performances in 1734-35, when he played 
Bayes, Lord Foppington, Sir John Brute, and other comedy parts. 
On the nights he played, the compliment was paid him of putting 
no name in the bill but his own. 




CHAPTER VI. 

The Author's first Step upon the Stage. His Discouragements. The 
best Actors in Europe /// us'd. A Revolution in their Favour. 
Kijig William grants thetn a Licence to act in Lincoln's-Inn 
Fields. The Author'' s Distress in being thought a worse Actor 
than a Poet. Reduc'd to write a Part for himself. His Success, 
More Remarks upon Theatrical Action. Some upon himself. 

HAVING given you the State of the Theatre 
at my first Admission to it, I am now drawing 
towards the several Revolutions it suffer'd in my 
own Time. But (as you find by the setting out of 
my History) that I always intended myself the 
Heroe of it, it may be necessary to let you know me 
in my Obscurity, as well as in my higher Light, when 
I became one of the Theatrical Triumvirat. 



THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY GIBBER. l8l 

The Patentees/ who were now Masters of this 
united and only Company of Comedians, seem'd to 
make It a Rule that no young Persons desirous to be 
Actors should be admitted into Pay under at least 
half a Year's Probation, wisely knowing that how 
early soever they might be approv'd of, there could 
be no great fear of losing them while they had then 
no other Market to go to. But, alas ! Pay was the 
least of my Concern ; the Joy and Privilege of every 
Day seeing Plays for nothing I thought was a suffi- 
cient Consideration for the best of my Services. So 
that it was no Pain to my Patience that I waited full 
three Quarters of a Year before I was taken into a 
Salary of Ten Shillings /^r Week ;^ which, with the 
Assistance of Food and Raiment at my Father's 

^ The original holders of the Patents, Sir William Davenant and 
Thomas Killigrew, were dead in 1690; and their successors, 
Alexander Davenant, to whom Charles Davenant had assigned his 
interest, and Charles Killigrew, seem to have taken little active 
interest in the management ; for Christopher Rich, who acquired 
Davenant's share in 1691, seems at once to have become managing 
proprietor. 

- Davies (" Dramatic Miscellanies," iii. 444) gives the following 
account of Cibber's first salary : " But Mr. Richard Cross, late 
prompter of Drury-lane theatre, gave me the following history 
of Colley Cibber's first establishment as a hired actor. He was 
known only, for some years, by the name of Master Colley. After 
waiting impatiently a long time for the prompter's notice, by good 
fortune he obtained the honour of carrying a message on the 
stage, in some play, to Betterton. Whatever was the cause. Master 
Colley was so terrified, that the scene was disconcerted l)y him. 
Betterton asked, in some anger, who the young fellow was that had 
committed the blunder. Downes replied, ' Master Colley.' — 
' Master Colley ! then forfeit him.'—' Why, sir,' said the prompter, 



152 THE LIFE OF 

House, I then thought a most plentiful Accession, 
and myself the happiest of Mortals. 

The first Thing that enters into the Head of a young 
Actor is that of being a Heroe : In this Ambition I 
was soon snubb'd by the Insufficiency of my Voice ; 
to which mio;ht be added an uninform'd measfre 
Person, (tho' then not ill made) with a dismal pale 
Complexion,^ Under these Disadvantages,^ I had 
but a melancholy Prospect of ever playing a Lover 
with Mrs. Bracegirdle, which I had flatter'd my Hopes 
that my Youth might one Day have recommended me 
to. What was most promising in me, then, was the 
Aptness of my Ear ; for I was soon allow'd to speak 

'he has no salary.' — 'No!' said the old man; 'why then put 
him down ten shillings a week, and forfeit him 5x."' 

^ Complexion is a point of no importance now, and this allusion 
suggests a theory to me which I give with all diffidence. We 
know that actresses painted in Pepys's time (" 1667, Oct. 5. But, 
Lord ! To see how they [Nell G^vynne and Mrs. Knipp] were 
both painted would make a man mad, and did make me loathe 
them "), and we also know that Dogget was famous for the painting 
of his face to represent old age. If, then, complexion was a point 
of importance for a lover, as Gibber states, it suggests that young 
actors playing juvenile parts did not use any " make-up" or paint, 
but went on the stage in their natural complexion. The lighting 
of the stage was of course much less brilliant than it afterwards 
became, so that "make-up" was not so necessary. 

^ "The Laureat" (p. 103) describes Gibber's person thus: — 
" He was in Stature of the middle Size, his Gomplexion fair, 
inclinable to the Sandy, his Legs somewhat of the thickest, his 
Shape a little clumsy, not irregular, and his Voice rather shrill 
than loud or articulate, and crack'd extremely, when he endea- 
vour'd to raise it. He was in his younger Days so lean, as to be 
known by the Name q{ Hatchet Face'' 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 



justly, tho' what was grave and serious did not 
equally become me. The first Part, therefore, in 
which I appear'd with any glimpse of Success, was 
the Chaplain ^ in the Orphan of Otway. There is in 
this Character (of one Scene only) a decent Plea- 
santry, and Sense enough to shew an Audience 
whether the Actor has any himself. Here was the 
first Applause I ever receiv'd, which, you may be 
sure, made my Heart leap with a higher Joy than 
may be necessary to describe ; and yet my Trans- 
port was not then half so high as at what Goodman 
(who had now left the Stage) said of me the next 
Day in my hearing. Goodman often came to a Re- 
hearsal for Amusement, and having sate out the 
Orphan the Day before, in a Conversation with 
some of the principal Actors enquir'd what new 
young Fellow that was whom he had seen in the 
Chaplain ? Upon which Monfort reply'd, That's he, 
behind you. Goodman then turning about, look'd 
earnestly at me, and, after some Pause, clapping me 
on the Shoulder, rejoin'd. If he does not make a good 
Actor, ril be d — 'd! The Surprize of being com- 
mended by one who had been himself so eminent on 
the Stage, and in so positive a manner, was more 
than I could support ; in a Word, it almost took away 
my Breath, and (laugh, if you please) fairly drew 
Tears from my Eyes ! And, tho' it may be as ridicu- 
lous as incredible to tell you what a full Vanity and 

^ Bellchambers notes that this part was originally played by 
Percival, who came into the Duke's Company about 1673. 



184 THE LIFE OF 

Content at that time possess'd me, I will still make 
it a Question whether Alexander himself, or Charles 
the Twelfth of Sweden^ when at the Head of their 
first victorious Armies, could feel a greater Trans- 
port in their Bosoms than I did then in mine, when 
but in the Rear of this Troop of Comedians. You 
see to what low Particulars I am forc'd to descend 
to give you a true Resemblance of the early and 
lively Follies of my Mind. Let me give you another 
Instance of my Discretion, more desperate than that 
of preferring the Stage to any other Views of Life. 
One might think that the Madness of breaking from 
the Advice and Care of Parents to turn Player could 
not easily be exceeded : But what think you, Sir, 

of Matrimony ? which, before I was Two-and- 

twenty, I actually committed,' when I had but 
Twenty Pounds a Year, which my Father had as- 
sur'd to me, and Twenty Shillings a Week from my 
Theatrical Labours, to maintain, as I then thought, 
the happiest young Couple that ever took a Leap in 
the Dark ! If after this, to complete my Fortune, I 

^ Of Gibber's wife there is little record. In 1695 the name of 
"Mrs. Cibbars" appears to the part of Galatea in " Philaster," 
and she was the original Hillaria in Gibber's " Love's Last Shift " 
in 1696; but she never made any great name or played any 
famous part. She was a Miss Shore, sister of John Shore, "Ser- 
geant-trumpet " of England. The " Biographia Dramatica " 
(i. 117) says that Miss Shore's father was extremely angry at her 
marriage, and spent that portion of his fortune which he had in- 
tended for her in building a retreat on the Thames which was 
called Shore's Folly. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 85 

turii'd Poet too, this last Folly indeed had something 
a better Excuse — Necessity : Had it never been my 
Lot to have come on the Stage, 'tis probable I might 
never have been inclin'd or reduc'd to have wrote for 
it : But having once expos'd my Person there, I 
thought it could be no additional Dishonour to let 
my Parts, whatever they were, take their Fortune 
along with it. — But to return to the Progress I made 
as an Actor. 

Queen Mary having commanded the Dotible 
Dealer to be acted, Kynaston happen'd to be so ill 
that he could not hope to be able next Day to per- 
form his Part of the Lord Touchwood. In this 
Exigence, the Author, Mr. Congrcve, advis'd that it 
might be given to me, if at so short a Warning I 
would undertake it.' The Flattery of being thus 
distinguish'd by so celebrated an Author, and the 
Honour to act before a Queen, you may be sure 
made me blind to whatever Difficulties might attend 
it. I accepted the Part, and was ready in it before I 
slept ; next Day the Queen was present at the Play, 
and was receiv'd with a new Prologue from the 
Author, spoken by Mrs. Barry, humbly acknow- 
ledging the great Honour done to the Stage, and to 
his Play in particular : Two Lines of it, which tho' I 
have not since read, I still remember. 

Btct never were in Rome nor Athens seen^ 
So fair a Circle, or so bright a Queen. 

* "The Double Dealer," 1693, was not very successful, and 



1 86 THE LIFE OF 

After the Play, Mr. Cojigrcve made me the Com- 
pliment of saying, That I had not only answer'd, 
but had exceeded his Expectations, and that he 
would shew me he was sincere by his saying 

more of me to the Masters. He was as good 

as his Word, and the next Pay-day I found my 
Sallary of fifteen was then advanc'd to twenty 
Shillings a Week. But alas ! this favourable Opi- 
nion of Mr. Congreve made no farther Impression 
upon the Judgment of my good Masters ; it only 
serv'd to heighten my own Vanity, but could not 
recommend me to any new Trials of my Capacity ; 
not a Step farther could I get 'till the Company was 
again divided, when the Desertion of the best Actors 
left a clear Stage for younger Champions to mount 
and shew their best Pretensions to Favour. But it 
is now time to enter upon those Facts that imme- 
diately preceded this remarkable Revolution of the 
Theatre. 

You have seen how complete a Set of Actors 
were under the Government of the united Patents 
in 1690; if their Gains were not extraordinary, what 
shall we impute it to but some extraordinary ill 
Menagement .'* I was then too young to be in their 
Secrets, and therefore can only observe upon what 
I saw and have since thought visibly wrong. 

when played at Lincoln's Inn Fields, i8th October, 17 18, was 
announced as not having been acted for fifteen years ; so that this 
incident no doubt occurred in the course of the first few nights of 
the play, which, Malone says, was produced in November, 1693. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 187 

Though the Success of the Prophetess ^ and King 
Arthur'^ (two dramatic Operas, in which the Paten- 
tees had embark'd all their Hopes) was In Appear- 
ance very great, yet their whole Receipts did not so 
far balance their Expence as to keep them out of a 
large Debt, which it was publickly known was about 
this time contracted, and which found Work for the 
Court of Chancery for about twenty Years following, 
till one side of the Cause grew weary. But this 
was not all that was wrong ; every Branch of the 
Theatrical Trade had been sacrific'd to the neces- 
sary fitting out those tall Ships of Burthen that were 
to bring home the Indies. Plays of course were 
neglected. Actors held cheap, and slightly dress'd, 
while Singers and Dancers were better paid, and 
embroider'd. These Measures, of course, created 
Murmurings on one side, and Ill-humour and Con- 
tempt on the other. When it became necessary 
therefore to lessen the Charge, a Resolution was 

' "The Prophetess," now supposed to be mostly Fletcher's 
work (see Ward's "English Dramatic Literature," ii. 218), was 
made into an opera by Betterton, the music by Purcell. It was 
produced in 1690, with a Prologue written by Dryden, which, for 
political reasons, was forbidden by the Lord Chamberlain after 
the first night. 

^ " King Arthur ; or, the British Worthy," a Dramatic Opera, 
as Dryden entitles it, was produced in 169 1. In his Dedication 
to the Marquis of Halifax, Dryden says: "This Poem was the last 
Piece of Service, which I had the Honour to do, for my Gracious 
Master, King Charles the Second." Downes says " 'twas very 
Gainful to the Company," but Gibber declares it was not so 
successful as it appeared to be. 



1 88 THE LIFE OF 

taken to begin with the Sallaries of the Actors ; and 
what seem'd to make this Resolution more necessary 
at this time was the Loss of Nokes, Monfort, and 
Leigh, who all dy'd about the same Year : ^ No won- 
der then, if when these great Pillars were at once re- 
mov'd, the Building grew weaker and the Audiences 
very much abated. Now in this Distress, what 
more natural Remedy could be found than to incite 
and encourage (tho' with some Hazard) the Industry 
of the surviving Actors ? But the Patentees, it 
seems, thought the surer way was to bring down 
their Pay in proportion to the Fall of their Audi- 
ences. To make this Project more feasible they 
propos'd to begin at the Head of 'em, rightly judging 
that if the Principals acquiesc'd, their Inferiors would 
murmur in vain. To bring this about with a better 
Grace, they, under Pretence of bringing younger 
Actors forward, order'd several of Bettertofis and 
Mrs. Barry ^ chief Parts to be given to young Powel 
and Mrs. Bracegirdle. In this they committed two 
palpable Errors ; for while the best Actors are in 
Health, and still on the Stage, the Publick is always 
apt to be out of Humour when those of a lower 
Class pretend to stand in their Places ; or admitting 
at this time they might have been accepted, this 
Project might very probably have lessen'd, but could 
not possibly mend an Audience, and was a sure 
Loss of that Time, in studying, which might have 

' End of 1692. 




M"5 QRACEGIRDLE AS THE INDIAN QUEEN' 






I 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 89 

been better employ'd in giving the Auditor Variety, 
the only Temptation to a pall'd Appetite ; and 
Variety is only to be given by Industry : But 
Industry will always be lame when the Actor has 
Reason to be discontented. This the Patentees did 
not consider, or pretended not to value, while they 
thought their Power secure and uncontroulable : 
But farther their first Project did not succeed ; for 
tho* the giddy Head of Pozvel accepted the Parts of 
Betterton, Mrs. Bracegirdle had a different way of 
thinking, and desir'd to be excus'd from those of 
Mrs. Barry; her good Sense was not to be misled 
by the insidious Favour of the Patentees ; she knew 
the Stao;e was wide enough for her Success, without 
entring into any such rash and invidious Competi- 
tion with Mrs. Barry, and therefore wholly refus'd 
acting any Part that properly belong'd to her. But 
this Proceeding, however, was Warning enough to 
make Betterto7t be upon his Guard, and to alarm 
others with Apprehensions of their own Safety, from 
the Design that was laid against him : Bctterioii 
upon this drew into his Party most of the valuable 
Actors, who, to secure their Unity, enter'd with him 
into a sort of Association to stand or fall together.^ 
All this the Patentees for some time slighted ; but 
when Matters drew towards a Crisis, they found it 

' Betterton seems to have been a very politic person. In the 
"Comparison between the two Stages" (p. 41) he is called, 
though not in reference to this particular matter, " a cunning old 
Fox." 

N 



igO THE LIFE OF 

adviseable to take the same Measures, and accord- 
ingly open'd an Association on their part; both 
which were severally sign'd, as the Interest or Incli- 
nation of either Side led them. 

During these Contentions which the impolitick 
Patentees had rais'd against themselves (not only by 
this I have mentioned, but by many other Grievances 
which my Memory retains not) the Actors offer'd a 
Treaty of Peace ; but their Masters imagining no 
Consequence could shake the Right of their Autho- 
rity, refus'd all Terms of Accommodation. In the 
mean time this Dissention was so prejudicial to their 
daily Affairs, that I remember it was allow'd by 
both Parties that before Christmas the Patent had 
lost the getting of at least a thousand Pounds 
by it. 

My having been a Witness of this unnecessary 
Rupture was of great use to me when, many Years 
after, I came to be a Menager my self I laid it 
down as a settled Maxim, that no Company could 
flourish while the chief Actors and the Undertakers 
were at variance. I therefore made it a Point, while 
it was possible upon tolerable Terms, to keep the 
valuable Actors in humour with their Station ; and 
tho' I was as jealous of their Encroachments as 
any of my Co-partners could be, I always guarded 
against the least Warmth in my Expostulations with 
them ; not but at the same time they might see I 
was perhaps more determin'd in the Question than 
those that gave a loose to their Resentment, and 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. I9I 

when they were cool were as apt to recede.' I do 
not remember that ever I made a Promise to any 
that I did not keep, and therefore was cautious how 
I made them. This Coldness, tho' it might not 
please, at least left them nothing to reproach me 
with ; and if Temper and fair Words could prevent 
a Disobligation, I was sure never to give Offence or 
receive it.^ But as I was but one of three, I could 
not oblige others to observe the same Conduct. 
However, by this means I kept many an unreason- 
able Discontent from breaking out, and both Sides 
found their Account in it. 

How a contemptuous and overbearing manner of 
treating Actors had like to have ruin'd us in our 
early Prosperity shall be shewn in its Place.^ If 
future Menagers should chance to think my way 
right, I suppose they will follow it ; if not, when 
they find what happen'd to the Patentees (who 
chose to disagree with their People) perhaps they 
may think better of it. 

The Patentees then, who by their united Powers 

This is no doubt a hit at Wilks, whose temper was extremely 
impetuous. 

^ "The Laureat," p. 39: "He (Gibber) was always against 
raising, or rewarding, or by any means encouraging Merit of any 
kind." He had "many Disputes with WiVks on this Account, 
who was impatient, when Justice required it, to reward the Meri- 
torious." 

^ This is a reference to the secession of seven or eight actors in 
1 7 14, caused, according to Gibber, by Wilks's overbearing temper. 
See Ghapter XV. 



192 THE LIFE OF 

had made a Monopoly of the Stage, and conse- 
quently presum'd they might impose what Condi- 
tions they pleased upon their People, did not con- 
sider that they were all this while endeavouring to 
enslave a Set of Actors whom the Publick (more 
arbitrary than themselves) were inclined to support ; 
nor did they reflect that the Spectator naturally 
wish'd that the Actor who gave him Delight might 
enjoy the Profits arising from his Labour, without 
regard of what pretended Damage or Injustice 
might fall upon his Owners, whose personal Merit 
the Publick was not so well acquainted with. From 
this Consideration, then, several Persons of the 
highest Distinction espous'd their Cause, and some- 
times in the Circle entertain'd the King with the 
State of the Theatre. At length their Grievances 
were laid before the Earl of Dorset, then Lord 
Chamberlain, who took the most effectual Method 
for their Relief.^ The Learned of the Law were 

' Downes and Davies give the following accounts of the trans- 
action : — 

" Some time after, a difference happening between the United 
Patentees, and the chief Actors : As Mr, Betterton ; Mrs. Barry 
and Mrs. Bracegirdle; the latter complaining of Oppression from 
the former; they for Redress, Appeal'd to my Lord oi Dorset, 
then Lord Chamberlain, for Justice; who Espousing the Cause of 
the Actors, with the assistance of Sir Robert Howard, finding their 
Complaints just, procur'd from King William, a Seperate License 
for Mr. Congreve, Mr. Betterton, Mrs. Bracegirdle and ]\Irs. Barry, 
and others, to set up a new Company, calling it the New Theatre 
in Lineal lis- 1 nil- FieldsT — "Roscius Anglicanus," p. 43. 

" The nobility, and all persons of eminence, favoured the cause 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 93 

advised with, and they gave their Opinion that no 
Patent for acting Plays, &c. could tie up the Hands 
of a succeeding Prince from granting the like Autho- 
rity where it might be thought proper to trust it. 
But while this Affair was in Agitation, Queen Mary 
dy'd,^ which of course occasion'd a Cessation of all 
publick Diversions. In this melancholy Interim, 
Bettei'ton and his Adherents had more Leisure to 
sollicit their Redress ; and the Patentees now find- 
ing that the Party against them was gathering 
Strength, were reduced to make sure of as good a 
Company as the Leavings of Bettertons Interest 
could form ; and these, you may be sure, would not 
lose this Occasion of setting a Price upon their 
Merit equal to their own Opinion of it, which was 
but just double to what they had before. Powel 
and Verbruggen, who had then but forty Shillings a 
Week, were now raised each of them to four Pounds, 
and others in Proportion : As for my self, I was then 
too insignificant to be taken into their Councils, and 
consequently stood among those of little Importance, 
like Cattle in a Market, to be sold to the first Bidder. 
But the Patentees seeming in the greater Distress 
for Actors, condescended to purchase me. Thus, 

of the comedians ; the generous Dorset introduced Betterton, 
Mrs. Barry, Mrs. Bracegirdle, and others, to the King, who granted 
them an audience. . . . William, who had freed all the 
subjects of England from slavery, except the inhabitants of the 
mimical world, rescued them also from the insolence and tyranny 
of their oppressors." — " Dram. Miscellanies," iii. 419. 
^ 28th December, 1694. 



194 THE LIFE OF 

without any farther Merit than that of being a scarce 
Commodity, I was advanc'd to thirty ShilHngs a 
Week : Yet our Company was so far from being 
full,^ that our Commanders were forced to beat up 
for Volunteers in several distant Counties ; it was 
this Occasion that first brought Johnson ^ and Bul- 
lock ^ to the Service of the Theatre- Royal. 

Forces being thus raised, and the War declared 
on both Sides, Betterton and his Chiefs had the 
Honour of an Audience of the King, who consider'd 
them as the only Subjects whom he had not yet 
deliver'd from arbitrary Power, and graciously dis- 
miss'd them with an Assurance of Relief and Sup- 
port — Accordingly a select number of them were 
impower'd by his Royal Licence * to act in a separate 
Theatre for themselves. This great Point being 
obtain'd, many People of Quality came into a volun- 
tary Subscription of twenty, and some of forty Guineas 
a-piece, for erecting a Theatre within the Walls of 
the Tennis-Court in Lincoln s- Inn- Fields.^ But as 



* The "Comparison between the two Stages" says (p. 7): 
" 'twas almost impossible in Drury-Lane, to muster up a sufficient 
number to take in all the Parts of any Play." 

^ See memoir of Johnson at end of second volume. 
' See memoir of Bullock at end of second volume. 

* I do not think that the date of this Licence has ever been 
stated. It was 25th March, 1695. 

' " Comparison between the two Stages," p. 12: " We know 
what importuning and dunning the Noblemen there was, what 
flattering, and what promising there was, till at length, the in- 
couragement they received by liberal Contributions set 'em in a 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 95 

it required Time to fit it up, it gave the Patentees 
more Leisure to muster their Forces, who notwith- 
standing were not able to take the Field till the 
Easter- Monday in April following. Their first At- 
tempt was a reviv'd Play call'd Abdelazar, or the 
Moors Revenge, poorly written, by Mrs. Be/in. The 
House was very full, but whether it was the Play or 
the Actors that were not approved, the next Day's 
Audience sunk to nothing. However, we were 
assured that let the Audiences be never so low, our 
Masters would make good all Deficiencies, and 
so indeed they did, 'till towards the End of the 
Season, when Dues to Ballance came too thick upon 
'em. But that I may go gradually on with my own 
Fortune, I must take this Occasion to let you know, 
by the following Circumstance, how very low my 
Capacity as an Actor was then rated : It was thought 
necessary at our Opening that the Town should be 
address'd in a new Prologue ; but to our great Dis- 
tress, among several that were offer'd, not one was 
judg'd fit to be spoken. This I thought a favourable 
Occasion to do my self some remarkable Service, if 
I should have the good Fortune to produce one that 
might be accepted. The next (memorable) Day my 
Muse brought forth her first Fruit that was ever 
made publick ; how good or bad imports not ; my 
Prologue was accepted, and resolv'd on to be spoken. 
This Point being gain'd, I began to stand upon 

Condition to go on." This theatre was the theatre in Liiile 
Lincoln's Inn Fields. See further details in Chap. XIII. 



196 THE LIFE OF 

Terms, you will say, not unreasonable ; which were, 
that if I might speak it my self I would expect no 
farther Reward for my Labour : This was judg'd as 
bad as having no Prologue at all ! You may imagine 
how hard I thought it, that they durst not trust my 
poor poetical Brat to my own Care. But since I 
found it was to be given into other Hands, I insisted 
that two Guineas should be the Price of my parting 
with it ; which with a Sigh I received, and Pozael spoke 
the Prologue : But every Line that was applauded 
went sorely to my Heart when I reflected that the 
same Praise might have been given to my own 
speaking ; nor could the Success of the Author com- 
pensate the Distress of the Actor. However, in the 
End, it serv'd in some sort to mend our People's 
Opinion of me; and whatever the Criticks might think 
of it, one of the Patentees ^ (who, it is true, knew no 
Difference between Dryden and Durfey) said, upon 
the Success of it, that insooth ! I was an ingenious 
young Man. This sober Compliment (tho' I could 
have no Reason to be vain upon it) I thought 
was a fair Promise to my being in favour. But to 
Matters of more Moment : Now let us reconnoitre 
the Enemy. 

After we had stolen some few Days March upon 
them, the Forces of Betterton came up with us in 
terrible Order : In about three Weeks following, the 
new Theatre was open'd against us with a veteran 
Company and a new Train of Artillery ; or in plainer 
' No doubt, Rich. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 97 

English^ the old Actors in Lincoln s-Inn-Fields be- 
gan with a new Comedy of Mr. Co7igreves, call'd 
Love for Love ;^ which ran on with such extra- 
ordinary Success that they had seldom occasion to 
act any other Play 'till the End of the Season. This 
valuable Play had a narrow Escape from falling 
into the Hands of the Patentees ; for before the 
Division of the Company it had been read and 
accepted of at the Theatre- Royal : But while the 
Articles of Agreement for it were preparing, the 
Rupture in the Theatrical State was so far advanced 
that the Author took time to pause before he sign'd 
them ; when finding that all Hopes of Accommoda- 
tion were impracticable, he thought it advisable to 
let it take its Fortune with those Actors for whom he 
had first intended the Parts. 

Mr. Congj^eve vjdiS then in such high Reputation as 
an Author, that besides his Profits from this Play, 
they offered him a whole Share with them, which he 
accepted;^ in Consideration of which he oblig'd 
himself, if his Health permitted, to give them one 
new Play every Year.^ Dry den, in King Charles s 

^ Downes says (p. 43), " the House being fitted up from a 
Tennis-Court, they Open'd it the last Day oi April, 1695." 

^ It will be noticed that Downes in the passage quoted by 
me (p. 192, note i) mentions Congreve as if he had been an 
original sharer in the Licence; but the statement is probably 
loosely made. 

^ Bellchambers has here the following notes, the entire substance 
of which will be found in Malone ("Shakespeare," 1821, iii. 170, 
et seq.) : " In Shakspeare's time the nightly expenses for lights, 
supernumeraries, etc., was but forty-five shillings, and having 



198 THE LIFE OF 

Time, had the same Share with the King's Com- 
pany, but he bound himself to give them two Plays 
every Season. This you may imagine he could not 
hold long, and I am apt to think he might have 

deducted this charge, the clear emoluments were divided into 
shares, (supposed to be forty in number,) between the proprietors, 
and principal actors. In the year 1666, the whole profit arising 
from acting plays, masques, etc., at the King's theatre, was 
divided into twelve shares and three quarters, of which Mr, Kille- 
grew, the manager, had two shares and three quarters, each share 
computed to produce about ;^25o, net, per annum. In Sir William 
D'Avenant's company, from the time their new theatre was opened 
in Portugal-row, the total receipt, after deducting the nightly 
expenses, was divided into fifteen shares, of which it was agreed 
that ten should belong to D'Avenant, for various purposes, and 
the remainder be divided among the male members of his troops 
according to their rank and merit. I cannot relate the arrange- 
ment adopted by Betterton in Lincoln's-inn-fields, but the share 
accepted by Congreve was, doubtless, presumed to be of consider- 
able value. 

"Dryden had a share and a quarter in the king's company, for 
which he bound himself to furnish not two, but three plays every 
season. The following paper, which, after remaining long in the 
Killegrew family, came into the hands of the late Mr. Reed, 
and was published by Mr. Malone in his ' Historical Account of 
the English Stage,' incontestably proves the practice alluded to. 
The superscription is lost, but it was probably addressed to the 
lord-chamberlain, or the king, about the year 1678, 'CEdipus,' 
the ground of complaint, being printed in 1679 : 

" * Whereas upon Mr. Dryden's binding himself to write three 
playes a yeere, hee the said Mr. Dryden was admitted and con- 
tinued as a sharer in the king's playhouse for diverse years, and 
received for his share and a quarter three or four hundred pounds, 
communibus annis ; but though he received the moneys, we re- 
ceived not the playes, not one in a yeare. After which, the house 
being burnt, the company in building another, contracted great 
debts, so that shares fell much short of what they were formerly. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 1 99 

serv'd them better with one in a Year, not so hastily- 
written. Mr. Congreve, whatever Impediment he 
met with, was three Years before, in pursuance to 
his Agreement, he produced the Mourning Bride ; ^ 

Thereupon Mr. Dryden complaining to the company of his want 
of proffit, the company was so kind to him that they not only did 
not presse him for the playes which he so engaged to write for 
them, and for which he was paid beforehand, but they did also at 
his earnest request give him a third day for his last new play called 
All for Love; and at the receipt of the money of the said third 
day, he acknowledged it as a guift, and a particular kindnesse of 
the company. Yet notwithstanding this kind proceeding, Mr. 
Dryden has now, jointly with Mr. Lee, (who was in pension with 
us to the last day of our playing, and shall continue,) written a 
play called Oedipus, and given it to the Duke's company, contrary 
to his said agreement, his promise, and all gratitude, to the great 
prejudice and almost undoing of the company, they being the 
only poets remaining to us. Mr. Crowne, being under the like 
agreement with the duke's house, writt a play called The Destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem, and being forced by their refusall of it, to bring 
it to us, the said company compelled us, after the studying of it, 
and a vast expence in scenes and cloaths, to buy off their clayme, 
by paying all the pension he had received from them, amounting 
to one hundred and twelve pounds paid by the king's company, 
besides near forty pounds he the said Mr. Crowne paid out of his 
owne pocket. 

" ' These things considered, if notwithstanding Mr. Dryden's 
said agreement, promise, and moneys freely giving him for his said 
last new play, and the many titles we have to his writings, this play 
be judged away from us, we must submit. 

(Signed) " ' Charles Killigrew. 

" * Charles Hart. 

'•'Rich. Burt. 

" ' Cardell Goodman. 

«"Mic. Mohun.'" 
* The interval between the two plays cannot have been quite 



200 THE LIFE OF 

and if I mistake not, the Interval had been much the 
same when he gave them the Way of the World} 
But it came out the stronger for the Time it cost 
him, and to their better support when they sorely- 
wanted it : For though they went on with Success 
for a Year or two, and even when their Affairs were 
declining stood in much higher Estimation of the 
Publick than their Opponents ; yet in the End both 
Sides were great Sufferers by their Separation ; the 
natural Consequence of two Houses, which I have 
already mention'd in a former Chapter. 

The first Error this new Colony of Actors fell 
into was their inconsiderately parting with Williams 
and Mrs. Monfoj^t^ upon a too nice (not to say 
severe) Punctilio ; in not allowing them to be equal 
Sharers with the rest ; which before they had acted 
one Play occasioned their Return to the Service of 
the Patentees. As I have call'd this an Error, I 
ought to give my Reasons for it. Though the In- 
dustry of Williams was not equal to his Capacity ; 
for he lov'd his Bottle better than his Business ; and 
though Mrs. Monfort was only excellent in Comedy, 
yet their Merit was too great almost on any Scruples 
to be added to the Enemy ; and at worst, they were 
certainly much more above those they would have 
ranked them with than they could possibly be under 

three years. The first was produced in April, 1695, the second 
some time in 1697. 

^ Produced early in 1700. 

^ Mrs. Mountfort was now Mrs. Verbruggen. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 20I 

those they were not admitted to be equal to. Of this 
Fact there is a poetical Record in the Prologue to 
Love for Love, where the Author, speaking of the 
then happy State of the Stage, observes that if, in 
Paradise, when two only were there, they both fell ; 
the Surprize was less, if from so numerous a Body as 
theirs, there had been any Deserters. 

Abate the Wonder, and the Fault forgive. 

If, in our laj^ger Family, we gjHeve 

Oiie falling Adam, and one tempted Eve/ 

These Lines alluded to the Revolt of the Persons 
above mention'd. 

Notwithstanding the Acquisition of these two 
Actors, who were of more Importance than any of 
those to whose Assistance they came, the Affairs of 
the Patentees were still in a very creeping Condi- 
tion;^ they were now, too late, convinced of their 
Error in having provok'd their People to this Civil 

^ The passage is : — 

"The Freedom man was born to, you've restor'd. 
And to our World such Plenty you afford, 
It seems, like Eden, fruitful of its own accord. 
But since, in Paradise, frail Flesh gave Way, 
And when but two were made, both went astray ; 
Forbear your Wonder, and the Fault forgive. 
If, in our larger Family, we grieve 
One falling Adam, and one tempted Eve." 

^ In his Preface to " Woman's Wit," Gibber says, " But however 
a Fort is in a very poor Condition, that (in a Time of General War) 
has but a Handful of raw young Fellows to maintain it." He also 
talks of himself and his companions as " an uncertain Gompany." 



202 THE LIFE OF 

War of the Theatre ! quite changed and dismal now 
was the Prospect before them ! their Houses thin, 
and the Town crowding into a new one ! Actors at 
double Sallaries, and not half the usual Audiences to 
pay them ! And all this brought upon them by those 
whom their full Security had contemn'd, and who 
were now in a fair way of making their Fortunes 
upon the ruined Interest of their Oppressors. 

Here, tho' at this time my Fortune depended on 
the Success of the Patentees, I cannot help in regard 
to Truth remembring the rude and riotous Havock 
we made of all the late dramatic Honours of the 
Theatre ! all became at once the Spoil of Ignorance 
and Self-conceit ! Shakespear was defac'd and tor- 
tured in every signal Character — Hamlet and Othello 
lost in one Hour all their good Sense, their Dignity 
and Fame. Brutus and Cassius became noisy Blus- 
terers, with bold unmeaning Eyes, mistaken Senti- 
ments, and turgid Elocution ! Nothing, sure, could 
more painfully regret^ a judicious Spectator than to 
see, at our first setting out, with what rude Confidence 
those Habits which actors of real Merit had left 
behind them were worn by giddy Pretenders that so 
vulgarly disgraced them ! Not young Lawyers in 
hir'd Robes and Plumes at a Masquerade could be 

^ Bellchambers has here this note : *' Mr. Gibber's usage of the 
verb regret here, may be said to confirm the censure of Fielding, 
who urged, in reviewing some other of his inadvertencies, that it 
was 'needless for a great writer to understand his grammar.'" See 
note I on page 69. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 20$ 

less what they would seem, or more aukwardly per- 
sonate the Characters they belong'd to. If, in all 
these Acts of wanton Waste, these Insults upon 
injur'd Nature, you observe I have not yet charged 
one of them upon myself, it is not from an imaginary 
Vanity that I could have avoided them ; but that I 
was rather safe, by being too low at that time to be 
admitted even to my Chance of falling into the same 
eminent Errors : So that as none of those great 
Parts ever fell to my Share, I could not be account- 
able for the Execution of them : Nor indeed could 
I get one good Part of any kind 'till many Months 
after ; unless it were of that sort which no body else 
card for, or would venture to expose themselves in.^ 
The first unintended Favour, therefore, of a Part of 
any Value, Necessity threw upon me on the follow- 
inof Occasion. 

As it has been always judg'd their natural Interest, 
where there are two Theatres, to do one another as 

^ Genest (ii. 65) has the following criticism of Gibber's state- 
ment : " There can be no doubt but that the acting at the 
Theatre Royal was miserably inferiour to what it had been — but 
perhaps Gibber's account is a little exaggerated — he had evidently 
a personal dislike to Powell — everything therefore that he says, 
directly or indirectly, against him must be received with some 
grains of allowance — Powell seems to have been eager to exhibit 
himself in some of Betterton's best parts, whereas a more diffident 
actor would have wished to avoid comparisons — we know from 
the Spectator that Powell was too apt to tear a passion to 
tatters, but still he must have been an actor of considerable repu- 
tation at this time, or he would not have been cast for several good 
parts before the division of the Gompany." 



204 THE LIFE OF 

much Mischief as they can, you may imagine it could 
not be long before this hostile Policy shew'd itself in 
Action. It happen'd, upon our having Information 
on a Sahtrday Morning that the Tuesday after 
Hamlet was intended to be acted at the other House, 
where it had not yet been seen, our merry menaging 
Actors, (for they were now in a manner left to govern 
themselves) resolv'd at any rate to steal a March 
upon the Enemy, and take Possession of the same 
Play the Day before them : Accordingly, Hamlet 
was given out that Night to be Acted with us on 
Monday. The Notice of this sudden Enterprize soon 
reach'd the other House, who in my Opinion too 
much regarded it; for they shorten'd their first 
Orders, and resolv'd that Hamlet should to Hamlet 
be opposed on the same Day ; whereas, had they 
given notice in their Bills that the same Play 
would have been acted by them the Day after, the 
Town would have been in no Doubt which House 
they should have reserved themselves for ; ours 
must certainly have been empty, and theirs, with 
more Honour, have been crowded : Experience, 
many Years after, in like Cases, has convinced me 
that this would have been the more laudable Con- 
duct. But be that as It may ; when In their Mondays 
Bills It was seen that Hamlet was up against us, our 
Consternation was terrible, to find that so hopeful a 
Project was frustrated. In this Distress, Powel, who 
was our commanding Officer, a:id whose enterprising 
Head wanted nothing but Skill to carry him through 




WILLIAM BULLOCK 



MR. COLLEY CIBBfiR. 205 

the most desperate Attempts ; for, like others of his 
Cast, he had murder'd many a Hero only to get into 
his Cloaths. This Powel, I say, immediately called 
a Council of War, where the Question was. Whether 
he should fairly face the Enemy, or make a Retreat 
to some other Play of more probable Safety ? It 
was soon resolved that to act Hamlet against Hamlet 
would be certainly throwing away the Play, and 
disofracine themselves to little or no Audience ; 
to conclude, Powel, who was vain enough to envy 
Betterton as his Rival, proposed to change Plays 
with them, and that as they had given out the Old 
BatcheloVy and had chang'd it for Hamlet against us, 
we should give up our Hamlet and turn the Old 
Batche lor Villon them. This Motion was agreed to, 
Nemine contradicente ; but upon Enquiry, it was 
found that there were not two Persons among 
them who had ever acted in that Play : But that 
Objection, it seems, (though all the Parts were to be 
study'd in six Hours) was soon got over ; Powel had 
an Equivalent, in petto, that would ballance any 
Deficiency on that Score, which was, that he would 
play the Old Batchelor himself, and mimick Betterton 
throughout the whole Part. This happy Thought 
was approv'd with Delight and Applause, as what- 
ever can be suppos'd to ridicule Merit generally 
gives joy to those that want it : Accordingly the 
Bills were chang'd, and at the Bottom inserted. 
The Part of the Old Batchelor to be perfornid 
in Imitation of the Original. 
o 



206 THE LIFE OF 

Printed Books of the Play were sent for in haste, and 
every Actor had one to pick out of it the Part he had 
chosen : Thus, while they were each of them chew- 
ing the Morsel they had most mind to, some one 
happening to cast his Eye over th& Dramatis Personc^y 
found that the main Matter was still forgot, that no 
body had yet been thought of for the Part of Alder- 
man Fondlewife. Here we were all aground agen ! 
nor was it to be conceiv'd who could make the least 
tolerable Shift with it. This Character had been so 
admirably acted by Dogget, that though it is only 
seen in the Fourth Act, it may be no Dispraise to 
the Play to say it probably ow'd the greatest Part of 
its Success to his Performance. But, as the Case 
was now desperate, any Resource was better than 
none. Somebody must swallow the bitter Pill, or 
the Play must die. At last it was recollected that I 
had been heard to say in my wild way of talking, 
what a vast mind I had to play Nykin, by which 
Name the Character was more frequently call'd.^ 
Notwithstanding they were thus distress'd about the 
Disposal of this Part, most of them shook their Heads 
at my being mention'd for it ; yet Powel, who was 
resolv'd at all Hazards to fall upon Betterton, and 

' " Old Bachelor," act iv. sc. 4 : — 

" Fondlewife. Come kiss Nykin once more, and then get you in 
— So — Get you in, get you in. By by. 
Lcetitia. By, Nykm. 
Fondletvife. By, Cocky. 
L(ztitia. By, Nykin. 
Fondlewife. By, Cocky, by, by." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 20/ 

having no concern for what might become of any one 
that serv'd his Ends or Purpose, order'd me to be 
sent for ; and, as he naturally lov'd to set other 
People wrong, honestly said before I came, If the 
Fool has a mind to blow hhnself tip at once, let us evn 
give him a clear Stage for it. Accordingly the Part 
was put into my Hands between Eleven and Twelve 
that Morning, which I durst not refuse, because 
others were as much straitned in time for Study as 
myself. But I had this casual Advantage of most 
of them ; that having so constantly observ'd Dogget's 
Performance, I wanted but little Trouble to make me 
perfect in the Words ; so that when it came to my 
turn to rehearse, while others read their Parts from 
their Books, I had put mine in my Pocket, and went 
thro' the first Scene without it ; and though I was 
more abash'd to rehearse so remarkable a Part be- 
fore the Actors (which is natural to most young 
People) than to act before an Audience, yet some of 
the better-natur'd encouraged me so far as to say 
they did not think I should make an ill Figure in it : 
To conclude, the Curiosity to see Betterton mimick'd 
drew us a pretty good Audience, and Powel (as far 
as Applause is a Proof of it) was allow'd to have 
burlesqu'd him very well.^ As I have question'd 

^ Regarding Powell's playing in imitation of Betterton, Chet- 
wood (" History of the Stage," p. 155) says : " Mr. George Powel, a 
reputable Actor, with many Excellencies, gave out, that he would 
perform the part oi^\rJohn Falstaff'm. the manner of that very 
excellent English Roscius, Mr. Betterton. He certainly hit his 
Manner, and Tone of Voice, yet to make the Picture more like, 



208 THE LIFE OF 

the certain Value of Applause, I hope I may venture 
with less Vanity to say how particular a Share I had 
of it in the same Play. At my first Appearance 
one might have imagin'd by the various Murmurs 
of the Audience, that they were in doubt whether 
Dogget himself were not return'd, or that they could 
not conceive what strange Face it could be that so 
nearly resembled him ; for I had laid the Tint of 
forty Years more than my real Age upon my Fea- 
tures, and, to the most minute placing of an Hair, 
was dressed exactly like him : When I spoke, the 
Surprize was still greater, as if I had not only bor- 
row'd his Cloaths, but his Voice too. But tho' that 
was the least difficult Part of him to be imitated, 
they seem'd to allow I had so much of him in every 
other Requisite, that my Applause was, perhaps, more 
than proportionable : For, whether I had done so 
much where so little was expected, or that the 
Generosity of my Hearers were more than usually 
zealous upon so unexpected an Occasion, or from 
what other Motive such Favour might be pour'd 
upon me, I cannot say ; but in plain and honest 
Truth, upon my going off from the first Scene, a much 
better Actor might have been proud of the Applause 
that followed me ; after one loud Plaudit was ended 
and sunk into a general Whisper that seem'd still to 
continue their private Approbation, it reviv'd to a 
second, and again to a third, still louder than the 

he mimic'd the Infirmities of Distemper, old Age, and the aliflict- 
ing Pains of the Gout, which that great Man was often seiz'd with." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 209 

former. If to all this I add, that Dogget himself was 
in the Pit at the same time, it would be too rank 
Affectation if I should not confess that to see him 
there a Witness of my Reception, was to me as 
consummate a Triumph as the Heart of Vanity- 
could be indulg'd with. But whatever Vanity I 
might set upon my self from this unexpected Success, 
I found that was no Rule to other People's Judg- 
ment of me. There were few or no Parts of the 
same kind to be had ; nor could they conceive, from 
what I had done in this, what other sort of Cha- 
racters I could be fit for. If I sollicited for any 
thing of a different Nature, I was answered. That 
was not in my Way. And what was in my Way it 
seems was not as yet resolv'd upon. And though I 
reply'd. That I thottght any thing naturally written 
ought to be ill every ones Way that pretended to be an 
Actor ; this was looked upon as a vain, impracticable 
Conceit of my own. Yet it is a Conceit that, in forty 
Years farther Experience, I have not yet given up ; 
I still think that a Painter who can draw but one sort 
of Object, or an Actor that shines but in one Light, 
can neither of them boast of that ample Genius which 
is necessary to form a thorough Master of his Art : 
For tho' Genius may have a particular Inclination, 
yet a good History- Painter, or a good Actor, will, 
without being at a loss, give you upon Demand a 
proper Likeness of whatever nature produces. If 
he cannot do this, he is only an Actor as the Shoe- 
maker was allow'd a limited Judge of y4/^//(?/s Paint- 



2IO THE LIFE OF 

ing, but not beyond his Last. Now, tho' to do any 
one thing well may have more Merit than we often 
meet with, and may be enough to procure a Man 
the Name of a good Actor from the Publick; 
yet, in my Opinion, it is but still the Name with- 
out the Substance. If his Talent is in such narrow 
Bounds that he dares not step out of them to look 
upon the Singularities of Mankind, and cannot 
catch them in whatever Form they present them- 
selves ; if he is not Master of the Quicquid agtmt 
homines} &c. in any Shape Human Nature is fit 
to be seen in ; if he cannot change himself into 
several distinct Persons, so as to vary his whole 
Tone of Voice, his Motion, his Look and Gesture, 
whether in high or lower Life, and, at the same time, 
keep close to those Variations without leaving the 
Character they singly belong to ; if his best Skill 
falls short of this Capacity, what Pretence have we to 
call him a complete Master of his Art ? And tho' I 
do not insist that he ought always to shew himself in 
these various Lights, yet, before we compliment him 
with that Title, he ought at least, by some few 
Proofs, to let us see that he has them all in his 
Power. If I am ask'd, who, ever, arriv'd at this 
imaginary Excellence, I confess the Instances are 
very few ; but I will venture to name Monfoj't as 
one of them, whose Theatrical Character I have 

' " Quicquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira, voluptas, 
Gaudia, discursus, nostri est farrago libelli." 

Juvenal, i. 85. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 2 I I 

given in my last Chapter: For in his Youth he had 
acted Low Humour with great Success, even down 
to Tallboy in the Jovial Crew ; and when he was in 
great Esteem as a Tragedian, he was, in Comedy, 
the most complete Gentleman that I ever saw upon 
the Stage. Let me add, too, that Bctleriou, in his 
declining Age, was as eminent in Sir John Falstaff, 
as in the Vigour of it, in his Othello. 

While I thus measure the Value of an Actor by 
the Variety of Shapes he is able to throw himself 
into, you may naturally suspect that I am all this 
while leading my own Theatrical Character into your 
Favour : Why really, to speak as an honest Man, I 
cannot wholly deny it : But in this I shall endeavour 
to be no farther partial to myself than known Facts 
will make me ; from the good or bad Evidence of 
which your better Judgment will condemn or acquit 
me. And to shew you that I will conceal no Truth 
that is against me, I frankly own that had I been 
always left to my own choice of Characters, I am 
doubtful whether I migfht ever have deserv'd an 
equal Share of that Estimation which the Publick 
seem'd to have held me in : Nor am I sure that it 
was not Vanity in me often to have suspected that I 
was kept out of the Parts I had most mind to by 
the Jealousy or Prejudice of my Cotemporaries ; 
some Instances of which I could give you, were they 
not too slight to be remember'd : In the mean time, 
be pleas'd to observe how slowly, in my younger 
Days, my Good-fortune came forward. 



212 THE LIFE OF 

My early Success in the Old Batchelor, of which I 
have given so full an Account, having open'd no 
farther way to my Advancement, was enough, per- 
haps, to have made a young Fellow of more Modesty 
despair ; but being of a Temper not easily dishearten'd, 
I resolv'd to leave nothing unattempted that might 
shew me in some new Rank of Distinction. Having 
then no other Resource, I was at last reduc'd to write a 
Character for myself; but as that was not finish'd till 
about a Year after, I could not, in the Interim, procure 
any one Part that gave me the least Inclination to act 
it ; and consequently such as I got I perform'd with a 
proportionable Negligence. But this Misfortune, if 
it were one, you are not to wonder at ; for the same 
Fate attended me, more or less, to the last Days of 
my remaining on the Stage. What Defect in me 
this may have been owing to, I have not yet had 
Sense enough to find out ; but I soon found out as 
good a thing, which was, never to be mortify'd at it : 
Though I am afraid this seeming Philosophy was 
rather owing to my IncHnation to Pleasure than 
Business. But to my Point. The next Year I pro- 
duc'd the Comedy of Loves last Shift; yet the 
Difficulty of getting it to the Stage was not easily 
surmounted ; for, at that time, as little was expected 
from me, as an Author, as had been from my Pre- 
tensions to be an Actor. However, Mr. Southern, 
the Author of Oroonoko, having had the Patience to 
hear me read it to him, happened to like it so well 
that he immediately recommended it to the Patentees, 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 213 

and It was accordingly acted in January 1695.^ I^ 
this Play I gave myself the Part of Sir Novelty, 
which was thought a good Portrait of the Foppery 
then in fashion. Here, too, Mr. Southern, though 
he had approv'd my Play, came into the common 
Diffidence of me as an Actor : For, when on the 
first Day of it I was standing, myself, to prompt the 
Prologue, he took me by the Hand and said. Young 
Man ! I pronoimce thy Play a good one ; I will 
answer for its Success'^ if thou dost not spoil it by thy 
own Action. Though this might be a fair Salvo for 
his favourable Judgment of the Play, yet, if it were 
his real Opinion of me as an Actor, I had the good 
Fortune to deceive him : I succeeded so well in both, 
that People seem'd at a loss which they should give 

^ That is, January, 1696. The cast was : — 

" Love's last Shift ; or, the Fool in Fashion." 

Sir William Wisewoud . . . Mr. Johnson. 

Loveless Mr. Verbruggen. 

Sir Novelty Fashion .... Mr. Gibber. 

Elder Worthy Mr. Williams. 

Young Worthy Mr. Horden. 

Snap Mr. Penkethman. 

Sly Mr. Bullock. 

Lawyer Mr. Mills. 

Amanda Mrs. Rogers. 

Narcissa Mrs. Verbruggen. 

Hillaria Mrs. Gibber. 

Mrs. Flareit Mrs. Kent. 

Amanda's Woman Mrs. Lucas. 

^ In the Dedication to this play Gibber says that " Mr. 
Southern's, Good-nature (whose own Works best recommend his 
Judgment) engaged his Reputation for the Success." 



214 THE LIFE OF 

the Preference to/ But (now let me shew a Httle 
more Vanity, and my Apology for it shall come after) 
the Compliment which my Lord Dorset (then Lord- 
Chamberlain) made me upon it is, I own, what I had 
rather not suppress, viz. That it was the best First Play 
that any Author hi his Memory had producd; and 
that for a young Fellow to shew himself such an Actor 
and such a Writer in one Day, was something extra- 
ordinary. But as this noble Lord has been cele- 
brated for his Good-nature, I am contented that as 
much of this Compliment should be suppos'd to 
exceed my Deserts as may be imagin'd to have been 
heighten'd by his generous Inclination to encourage 
a young Beginner. If this Excuse cannot soften the 
Vanity of telling a Truth so much in my own Favour, 
I must lie at the Mercy of my Reader. But there 
was a still higher Compliment pass'd upon me which 
I may publish without Vanity, because it was not a 
design'd one, and apparently came from my Enemies, 
viz. That, to their certain Knowledge, it was not my 
own : This Report is taken notice of in my Dedica- 
tion to the Play.^ If they spoke Truth, if they knew 

^ Gildon praises this play highly in the *' Comparison between 
the two Stages," p. 25 : — 

" Rainble. Ay, marry, that Play was the Philosopher's Stone ; I 
think it did wonders. 

Sullen. It did so, and very deservedly ; there being few Comedies 
tliat came up to't for purity of Plot, Manners and Moral : It's 
often acted now a daies, and by the help of the Author's own 
good action, it pleases to this Day." 

" Davies ("Dram. Misc.," iii. 437) says: "So little was hoped 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 215 

what Other Person it really belong'd to, I will at least 
allow them true to their Trust ; for above forty Years 
have since past, and they have not yet reveal'd the 
Secret.^ 

The new Light in which the Character of Sir 
Novelty had shewn me, one might have thought were 
enough to have dissipated the Doubts of what I 
might now be possibly good for. But to whatever 
Chance my Ill-fortune was due ; whether I had still 
but little Merit, or that the Menagers, if I had any, 
were not competent Judges of it; or whether I was 
not generally elbow'd by other Actors (which I am 
most inclin'd to think the true Cause) when any fresh 
Parts were to be dispos'd of, not one Part of any 
consequence was I preferr'd to 'till the Year follow- 
ing: Then, indeed, from Sir Johi Vanbrug/is favour- 

from the genius of Gibber, that the critics reproached him with 
stealing his play. To his censurers he makes a serious defence 
of himself, in his dedication to Richard Norton, Esq., of South- 
wick, a gentleman who was so fond of stage-plays and players, 
that he has been accused of turning his chapel into a theatre. 
The furious John Dennis, who hated Gibber for obstructing, as 
he imagined, the progress of his tragedy called the Invader of 
his Gountry, in very passionate terms denies his claim to this 
comedy : ' When the Fool in Fashion was first acted (says the 
critic) Gibber was hardly twenty years of age — how could he, at 
the age of twenty, write a comedy with a just design, distinguished 
characters, and a proper dialogue, who now, at forty, treats us 
with Hibernian sense and Hibernian English?'" 

^ This same accusation was made against Gibber on other 
occasions. Dr. Johnson, referring to one of these, said: "There 
was no reason to believe that the Careless Husband was not 
written by himself" — Boswell's Johnson, ii. 340. 



2l6 THE LIFE OF 

able Opinion of me, I began, with others, to have a 
better of myself: For he not only did me Honour as 
an Author by writing his Relapse as a Sequel or 
Second Part to Loves last Shift, but as an Actor 
too, by preferring me to the chief Character in his 
own Play, (which from Sir Novelty) he had ennobled 
by the Style of Baron of Foppington. This Play 
(the Relapse) from its new and easy Turn of Wit, 
had great Success, and gave me, as a Comedian, a 
second Flight of Reputation along with it.^ 

As the Matter I write must be very flat or im- 
pertinent to those who have no Taste or Concern 
for the Stage, and may to those who delight in it, 
too, be equally tedious when I talk of no body but 
myself, I shall endeavour to relieve your Patience 
by a Word or two more of this Gentleman, so far as 
he lent his Pen to the Support of the Theatre. 

Though the Relapse was the first Play this agree- 
able Author produc'd, yet it was not, it seems, the 
first he had written ; for he had at that time by him 
(more than) all the Scenes that were acted of the 
P7'ovoJzd Wife ; but being then doubtful whether he 
should ever trust them to the Staee, he thought no 
more of it : But after the Success of the Relapse he 
was more strongly importun'd than able to refuse it 

^ "The Relapse; or, Virtue in Danger," was produced at 
Drury Lane in 1697. Gibber's part in it, Lord Foppington, be- 
came one of his most famous characters. The " Comparison 
between the two Stages," p. 32, says: " Oronoko, ^sop, and 
Relapse are Master-pieces, and subsisted Drury-lane House, the 
first two or three Years." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 21 7 

to the Publfck. Why the last-written Play was first 
acted, and for what Reason they were given to 
different Stages, what follows will explain. 

In his first Step into publick Life, when he was 
but an Ensign and had a Heart above his Income, 
he happen'd somewhere at his Winter-Quarters, 
upon a very slender Acquaintance with Sir Thomas 
Skipwithy to receive a particular Obligation from him 
which he had not forgot at the Time I am speaking 
of: When Sir Thomas s Interest in the Theatrical 
Patent (for he had a large Share in it, though he 
little concern'd himself in the Conduct of it) was 
rising but very slowly, he thought that to give it a 
Lift by a new Comedy, if it succeeded, might be the 
handsomest Return he could make to those his former 
Favours ; and having observ'd that in Loves last 
Shift most of the Actors had acquitted themselves 
beyond what was expected of them, he took a sudden 
Hint from what he lik'd in that Play, and in less 
than three Months, in the beginning of April follow- 
ing, brought us the Relapse finish'd ; but the Season 
being then too far advanc'd, it was not acted 'till the 
succeeding Winter. Upon the Success of the Relapse 
the late Lord Hallifax, who was a great Favourer of 
Bettertons Company, having formerly, by way of 
Family-Amusement, heard the ProvoJzd Wife read 
to him in its looser Sheets, engag'd Sir John Van- 
britgh to revise it and gave it to the Theatre in 
Lincoln s-Inn Fields, This was a Request not to be 
refus'd to so eminent a Patron of the Muses as the 



2l8 THE LIFE OF 

Lord Hallifax, who was equally a Friend and Ad- 
mirer of Sir Johi himself/ Nor was Sir Thomas 
Skipwith in the least disobliged by so reasonable a 
Compliance : After which, Sir John was agen at 
liberty to repeat his Civilities to his Friend Sir 
Thomas, and about the same time, or not long after, 
gave us the Comedy of ySsopy for his Inclination 
always led him to serve Sir Thontas. Besides, our 
Company about this time began to be look'd upon in 
another Light ; the late Contempt we had lain under 
was now wearing off, and from the Success of two or 
three new Plays, our Actors, by being Originals in a 
few good Parts where they had not the Disadvantage 
of Comparison against them, sometimes found new 
Favour in those old Plays where others had exceeded 
them.^ 

Of this Good-fortune perhaps I had more than my 
Share from the two very different chief Characters I 
had succeeded in ; for I was equally approv'd in y^sop 
as the Lord Foppingtoit, allowing the Difference to 
be no less than as Wisdom in a Person deform'd 
may be less entertaining to the general Taste than 

^ " The Provoked Wife " was produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields 
in 1697; and, as Gibber states, " ^sop " was played at Drury 
Lane in the same year. It seems (see Prologue to " The Con- 
federacy ") that Vanbrugh gave his first three plays as presents to 
the Companies. 

^ "Comparison between the two Stages," p. 12: "In the 
meantime the Mushrooms in Di-ury-Lane shoot up from such a 
desolate Fortune into a considerable Name ; and not only grappled 
with their Rivals, but almost eclipst 'em." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 219 

Folly and Foppery finely drest : For the Character 
that delivers Precepts of Wisdom is, in some sort, 
severe upon the Auditor by shewing him one wiser 
than himself. But when Folly is his Object he 
applauds himself for being wiser than the Coxcomb 
he laughs at : And who is not more pleas'd with an 
Occasion to commend than accuse himself ? 

Though to write much in a little time is no Ex- 
cuse for writing ill ; yet Sir John VanbrugJis Pen is 
not to be a little admir'd for its Spirit, Ease, and 
Readiness in producing Plays so fast upon the Neck 
of one another; for, notwithstanding this quick Dis- 
patch, there is a clear and lively Simplicity in his 
Wit that neither wants the Ornament of Learning 
nor has the least Smell of the Lamp in it. As 
the Face of a fine Woman, with only her Locks 
loose about her, may be then in its greatest Beauty ; 
such were his Productions, only adorn'd by Nature. 
There is something so catching to the Ear, so easy 
to the Memory, in all he writ, that it has been ob- 
serv'd by all the Actors of my Time, that the Style 
of no Author whatsoever gave their Memory less 
trouble than that of Sir Jolm Vanbrugh ; which I 
myself, who have been charg'd with several of his 
strongest Characters, can confirm by a pleasing Ex- 
perience. And indeed his Wit and Humour was so 
litde laboured, that his most entertaining Scenes 
seem'd to be no more than his common Conversation 
committed to Paper. Here I confess my Judgment 
at a Loss, whether in this I give him more or less 



2 20 THE LIFE OF 

than his due Praise ? For may it not be more laud- 
able to raise an Estate (whether in Wealth or Fame) 
by Pains and honest Industry than to be born to 
it ? Yet if his Scenes really were, as to me they 
always seem'd, delightful, are they not, thus expe- 
ditiously written, the more surprising ? let the Wit 
and Merit of them then be weigh'd by wiser Criticks 
than I pretend to be : But no wonder, while his Con- 
ceptions were so full of Life and Humour, his Muse" 
should be sometimes too warm to wait the slow Pace 
of Judgment, or to endure the Drudgery of forming 
a regular Fable to them : Yet we see the Relapse, 
however imperfect in the Conduct, by the mere Force 
of its agreeable Wit, ran away with the Hearts of its 
Hearers; while Loves last Shift, which (as Mr. Con- 
greve justly said of it) had only in it a great many 
things that were like Wit, that in reality were not 
Wit : And what is still less pardonable (as I say of it 
myself) has a great deal of Puerility and frothy 
Stage- Language in it, yet by the mere moral Delight 
receiv'd from its Fable, it has been, with the other, 
in a continued and equal Possession of the Stage for 
more than forty Years/ 

As I have already promis'd you to refer your Judg- 
ment of me as an Actor rather to known Facts than 
my own Opinion (which I could not be sure would 
keep clear of Self- Partiality) I must a little farther 
risque my being tedious to be as good as my Word. 

^ The last performance of this comedy which Genest indexes 
was at Covent Garden, 14th February, 1763. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 221 

I have elsewhere allow'd that my want of a strong 
and full Voice soon cut short my Hopes of making 
any valuable Figure in Tragedy ; and I have been 
many Years since convinced, that whatever Opinion 
I might have of my own Judgment or Capacity 
to amend the palpable Errors that I saw our 
Tragedians most in favour commit ; yet the Audi- 
tors who would have been sensible of any such 
Amendments (could I have made them) were so very 
few, that my best Endeavour would have been but 
an unavailing Labour, or, what is yet worse, might 
have appeared both to our Actors and to many 
Auditors the vain Mistake of my own Self-Conceit : 
For so strong, so very near indispensible, is that one 
Article of Voice in the forming a good Tragedian, 
that an Actor may want any other Qualification 
whatsoever, and yet have a better chance for Ap- 
plause than he will ever have, with all the Skill in the 
World, if his Voice is not equal to it. Mistake me 
not; I say, for Applause only — but Applause does 
not always stay for, nor always follow intrinsick 
Merit ; Applause will frequently open, like a young 
Hound, upon a wrong Scent ; and the Majority of 
Auditors, you know, are generally compos'd of Bab- 
blers that are profuse of their Voices before there is 
any thing on foot that calls for them. Not but, I 
grant, to lead or mislead the Many will always stand 
in some Rank of a necessary Merit; yet when I say 
a good Tragedian, I mean one in Opinion of whose 
real Merit the best Judges would agree. 

p 



22 2 THE LIFE OF 

Having so far given up my Pretensions to the 
Buskin, I ought now to account for my having been, 
notwithstanding, so often seen in some particular 
Characters in Tragedy, as Jago} Wolsey, Syphax, 
Richard the Third, &c. If in any of this kind I 
have succeeded, perhaps it has been a Merit dearly 
purchas'd ; for, from the Delight I seem'd to take in 
my performing them, half my Auditors have been 
persuaded that a great Share of the Wickedness 
of them must have been in my own Nature : 
If this is true, as true I fear (I had almost said 
hope) it is, I look upon it rather as a Praise than 
Censure of my Performance. Aversion there is 
an involuntary Commendation, where we are only 
hated for being like the thing we ought to be like ; a 
sort of Praise, however, which few Actors besides 
my self could endure : Had it been equal to the 
usual Praise given to Virtue, my Cotemporaries 
would have thought themselves injur'd if I had pre- 
tended to any Share of it : So that you see it has been 
as much the Dislike others had to them, as Choice 
that has thrown me sometimes into these Characters. 
But it may be farther observ'd, that in the Characters 
I have nam'd, where there is so much close meditated 

1 Davies (" Dram. Misc.," iii. 469) says : " The truth is, Gibber 
was endured, in this and other tragic parts, on account of his general 
merit in comedy;" and the author of "The Laureat," p. 41, 
remarks : " I have often heard him blamed as a Trifler in that 
Part ; he was rarely perfect, and, abating for the Badness of his 
Voice and the Insignificancy and Meanness of his Action, he did 
not seem to understand either what he said or what he was about." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 223 

Mischief, Deceit, Pride, Insolence, or Cruelty, they 
cannot have the least Cast or Profer of the Amiable 
in them ; consequently, there can be no great De- 
mand for that harmonious Sound, or pleasing round 
Melody of Voice, which in the softer Sentiments of 
Love, the Wailings of distressful Virtue, or in the 
Throws and Swellings of Honour and Ambition, 
may be needful to recommend them to our F*ity or 
Admiration : So that, again, my want of that requisite 
Voice might less disqualify me for the vicious than 
the virtuous Character. This too may have been a 
more favourable Reason for my having been chosen 
for them — a yet farther Consideration that inclin'd 
me to them was that they are generally better written, 
thicker sown with sensible Reflections, and come by 
so much nearer to common Life and Nature than 
Characters of Admiration, as Vice is more the Prac- 
tice of Mankind than Virtue : Nor could I sometimes 
help smiling at those dainty Actors that w-ere too 
squeamish to swallow them ! as if they were one Jot 
the better Men for acting a good Man well, or another 
Man the worse for doing equal Justice to a bad one ! 
'Tis not, sure, what we act, but how we act what is 
allotted us, that speaks our intrinsick Value! as in 
real Life, the wise Man or the Fool, be he Prince or 
Peasant, will in either State be equally the Fool or 
the wise Man — but alas ! in personated Life this is 
no Rule to the Vulgar ! they are apt to think all 
before them real, and rate the Actor according to his 
borrow'd Vice or Virtue. 



2 24 ^^^ L^^^ ^^ 

If then I had always too careless a Concern for 
false or vulgar Applause, I ought not to complain if 
I have had less of it than others of my time, or not 
less of it than I desired : Yet I will venture to say, 
that from the common weak Appetite of false Ap- 
plause, many Actors have run into more Errors and 
Absurdities, than their greatest Ignorance could other- 
wise have committed : Mf this Charge is true, it will 
lie chiefly upon the better Judgment of the Spectator 
to reform it. 

But not to make too great a Merit of my avoiding 
this common Road to Applause, perhaps I was vain 
enough to think I had more ways than one to come 
at it. That, in the Variety of Characters I acted, 
the Chances to win it were the stronger on my Side 
— That, if the Multitude were not in a Roar to see 
me in Cardinal Wolsey, I could be sure of them in 
Alderman Fondlewife, If they hated me mjago, in 
Sir Fop ling they took me for a fine Gentleman ; if 
they were silent at Syphax, no Italian Eunuch was 
more applauded than when I sung in Sir Courtly. If 
the Morals of ^sop were too grave for them, Justice 
Shallow was as simple and as merry an old Rake as 
the wisest of our young ones could wish me.'^ And 

^ "The Laureat," p. 44 : "Whatever the Actors appear'd upon 
the Stage, they were most of them Barbarians off on't, few of them 
having had the Education, or whose Fortunes could admit them 
to the Conversation of Gentlemen." 

^ Davies praises Gibber in Fondlewife, saying that he " was 
much and justly admired and applauded " (" Dram. Misc.," iii. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 225 

though the Terror and Detestation raised by King 
Richard might be too severe a Delight for them, yet 
the more gentle and modern Vanities of a Poet Bays, 
or the well-bred Vices of a Lord Foppington, were 
not at all more than their merry Hearts or nicer 
Morals could bear. 

These few Instances out of fifty more I could give 
you, may serve to explain what sort of Merit I at 
most pretended to ; which was, that I supplied with 
Variety whatever I might want of that particular 

391); and in the same work (i. 306) he gives an admirable sketch 
of Gibber as Justice Shallow : — 

"Whether he was a copy or an original in Shallow, it is certain 
no audience was ever more fixed in deep attention, at his first 
appearance, or more shaken with laughter in the progress of the 
scene, than at Colley Gibber's exhibition of this ridiculous justice 
of peace. Some years after he had left the stage, he acted 
Shallow for his son's benefit. I believe in 1737, when Quin was 
the Falstaff, and Milward the King. Whether it was owing to the 
pleasure the spectators felt on seeing their old friend return to 
them again, though for that night only, after an absence of some 
years, I know not; but, surely, no actor or audience were 
better pleased with each other. His manner was so perfectly 
simple, his look so vacant, when he questioned his cousin Silence 
about the price of ewes, and lamented, in the same breath, with 
silly surprise, the death of Old Double, that it will be impossible 
for any surviving spectator not to smile at the remembrance of it. 
The want of ideas occasions Shallow to repeat almost every thing 
he says. Gibber's transition, from asking the price of bullocks, to 
trite, but grave reflections on mortahty, was so natural, and attended 
with such an unmeaning roll of his small pigs-eyes, accompanied 
with an important utterance of tick ! tick ! tick ! not much louder 
than the balance of a watch, that I question if any actor was ever 
superior in the conception or expression of such solemn insignifi- 
cancy." 



2 26 THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 

Skill wherein others went before me. How this 
Variety was executed (for by that only is its value to 
be rated) you who have so often been my Spectator 
are the proper Judge : If you pronounce my Per- 
formance to have been defective, I am condemn'd 
by my own Evidence ; if you acquit me, these 
Out-lines may serve for a Sketch of my Theatrical 
Character. 




CHAPTER VII. 

The State of the Stage continued. The Occasion <?/WilksV commenc- 
ing Actor. His Success. Facts relating to his Theatrical Talent. 
Actors more or less esteem' d frofn their private Characters. 

THE Lincoln s- Inn- Fields Company were now, 
in 1693/ a Common-wealth, like that oi Hol- 
land, divided from the Tyranny of Spain : But the 
Similitude goes very little farther; short was the 
Duration of the Theatrical Power ! for tho' Success 
pour'd in so fast upon them at their first Opening 

^ I presume Gibber means 1695. The Company was self- 
governed from its commencement in 1695, and the disintegration 
seems to have begun in the next season. See what Gibber says of 
Dogget's defection a few pages on. 



228 THE LIFE OF 

that every thing seem'd to support it self, yet Expe- 
rience in a Year or two shew'd them that they had 
never been worse govern'd than when they govern'd 
themselves ! Many of them began to make their 
particular Interest more their Point than that of the 
general : and tho' some Deference might be had to 
the Measures and Advice of Better to7z, several of 
them wanted to govern in their Turn, and were 
often out of Humour that their Opinion was not 
equally regarded — But have we not seen the same 
Infirmity in Senates ? The Tragedians seem'd to 
think their Rank as much above the Comedians as 
in the Characters they severally acted ; when the 
first were in their Finery, the latter were impatient 
at the Expence, and look'd upon it as rather laid out 
upon the real than the fictitious Person of the Actor ; 
nay, I have known in our own Company this ridicu- 
lous sort of Regret carried so far, that the Tragedian 
has thought himself injured when the Comedian pre- 
tended to wear a fine Coat ! I remember Powel, upon 
surveying my first Dress in the Relapse, was out of 
all temper, and reproach'd our Master in very rude 
Terms that he had not so good a Suit to play Ccssar 
Borgia^ in ! tho' he knew, at the same time, my Lord 
Foppington fill'd the House, when his bouncing 
Borgia would do little more than pay Fiddles and 
Candles to it : And though a Character of Vanity 

^ In Lee's tragedy of "Caesar Borgia," originally played at 
Dorset Garden in 1680. Borgia was Betterton's part, and was 
evidently one of those which Powell laid violent hands on. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 229 

might be supposed more expensive in Dress than 
possibly one of Ambition, yet the high Heart of this 
heroical Actor could not bear that a Comedian 
should ever pretend to be as well dress'd as himself. 
Thus again, on the contrary, when Betterton pro- 
posed to set off a Tragedy, the Comedians were sure 
to murmur at the Charge of it : And the late 
Reputation which Dogget had acquired from acting 
his Ben in Love for Love, made him a more declared 
Male-content on such Occasions ; he over-valued 
Comedy for its being nearer to Nature than Tra- 
gedy, which is allow'd to say many fine things that 
Nature never spoke in the same Words ; and sup- 
posing his Opinion were just, yet he should have 
consider'd that the Publick had a Taste as well as 
himself, which in Policy he ought to have complied 
with. Dogget, however, could not with Patience 
look upon the costly Trains and Plumes of Tragedy, 
in which knowing himself to be useless, he thought 
were all a vain Extravagance : And when he found 
his Singularity could no longer oppose that Expence, 
he so obstinately adhered to his own Opinion, that 
he left the Society of his old Friends, and came over 
to us at the Theatre-Royal : And yet this Actor 
always set up for a Theatrical Patriot. This hap- 
pened in the Winter following the first Division of 
the (only) Company.^ He came time enough to the 
Theatre-Royal to act the Part of Lory in the Relapse^ 

* Among the Lord Chamberlain's Papers is a curious Decision, 
dated 26 Oct. 1696, regarding this desertion. By it, Dogget, who 



230 THE LIFE OF 

an arch Valet, quite after the French cast, pert and 
famlHar. But it suited so ill with Doggeis dry and 
closely-natural Manner of acting, that upon the second 
Day he desired it might be disposed of to another ; 
which the Author complying with, gave it to Pen- 
kelkina7i, vfh.o,t\\o in other Lights much his Inferior, 
yet this Part he seem'd better to become. Dogget 
was so immovable in his Opinion of whatever he 
thought was right or wrong, that he could never be 
easy under any kind of Theatrical Government, and 
was generally^o warm in pursuit of his Interest that 
he often out-ran it ; I remember him three times, for 
some Years, unemploy'd in any Theatre, from his 
not being able to bear, in common with others, the 
disagreeable Accidents that in such Societies are 
unavoidable.^ But whatever Pretences he had form'd 
for this first deserting from Lincoln s-Inn-Fields, I 
always thought his best Reason for it was, that he 
look'd upon it as a sinking Ship ; not onl}^ from the me- 
lancholy Abatement of their Profits, but likewise from 
the Neglect and Disorder in their Government : He 
plainly saw that their extraordinary Success at first had 
made them too confident of its Duration, and from 
thence had slacken'd their Industry — by which he 
observ'd, at the same time, the old House, where 

is stated to have been seduced from Lincoln's Inn Fields, is 
permitted to act where he hkes. 

^ Genest's list of Dogget's characters shows that he was appa- 
rently not engaged 1698 to 1700, both inclusive; for the seasons 
1706-7 and 1707-8; and for the season 1708-9. This would make 
the three occasions mentioned by Gibber. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 23 1 

there was scarce any other Merit than Industry, 
beo-an to flourish. And indeed they seem'd not 
enough to consider that the Appetite of the PubUck, 
Hke that of a fine Gentleman, could only be kept 
warm by Variety ; that let their Merit be never so 
high, yet the Taste of a Town was not always con- 
stant, nor infallible : That it was dangerous to hold 
their Rivals in too much Contempt ; ^ for they found 
that a young industrious Company were soon a Match 
for the best Actors when too securely negligent : And 
negligent they certainly were, and fondly fancied that 
had each of their different Schemes been follow'd, their 
Audiences would not so suddenly have fallen off.^ 

But alas ! the Vanity of applauded Actors, when 
they are not crowded to as they may have been, 
makes them naturally impute the Change to any 
Cause rather than the true one. Satiety : They are 
mighty loath to think a Town, once so fond of them, 
could ever be tired ; and yet, at one time or other, 
more or less thin Houses have been the certain Fate 

^ Dryden, in his Address to Granville on his tragedy of 
"Heroic Love" in 1698, says of the Lincoln's Inn Fields Com- 
pany : — 

" Their setting sun still shoots a glimmering ray, 

Like ancient Rome, majestic in decay ; 

And better gleanings their worn soil can boast, 

Than the crab-vintage of the neighbouring coast." 
^ "Comparison between the two Stages," p. 13: "But this 
[the success of * Love for Love '] like other things of that kind, 
being only nine Days wonder, and the Audiences, being in a little 
time sated with the Novelty of the New-house, return in Shoals to 
the Old." 



232 THE LIFE OF 

of the most prosperous Actors ever since I remem- 
ber the Stage ! But against this Evil the provident 
Patentees had found out a ReHef which the new 
House were not yet Masters of, viz. Never to pay 
their People when the Money did not come in ; nor 
then neither, but in such Proportions as suited their 
Conveniency. I my self was one of the many who 
for six acting Weeks together never received one 
Day's Pay ; and for some Years after seldom had 
above half our nominal Sallaries : But to the best of 
my Memory, the Finances of the other House held 
it not above one Season more, before they were 
reduced to the same Expedient of making the like 
scanty Payments/ 

Such was the Distress and Fortune of both these 
Companies since their Division from the Theatre- 
Royal ; either working at half Wages, or by alternate 
Successes intercepting the Bread from one another's 
Mouths ;^ irreconcilable Enemies, yet without Hope 

^ Gibber says nothing of his having been a member of the 
Lincoln's Inn Fields Company. But he was, for he writes in his 
Preface to " Woman's Wit " : " during the Time of my writing the 
two first Acts I was entertain'd at the New Theatre. ... In the 
Middle of my Writing the Third Act, not Hking my Station there, 
I return'd again to the Theatre Royal." Gibber must have joined 
Betterton, I should think, about the end of 1696. It is curious 
that he should in his " Apology " have entirely suppressed this 
incident. It almost suggests that there was something in it of 
which he was in later years somewhat ashamed. 

^ "Comparison between the two Stages," p. 14: "The Town 
. . . chang'd their Inclinations for the two Houses, as they found 
'emselves inclin'd to Comedy or Tragedy : If they desir'd a 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 233 

of Relief from a Victory on either Side ; sometimes 
both Parties reduced, and yet each supporting their 
Spirits by seeing the other under the same Calamity. 
During this State of the Stage it was that the 
lowest Expedient was made use of to ingratiate our 
Company in the Publick Favour : Our Master, who 
had sometime practised the Law,^ and therefore loved 
a Storm better than fair Weather (for it was his own 
Conduct chiefly that had brought the Patent into 
these Dangers) took nothing so much to Heart as 
that Partiality wherewith he imagined the People of 
Quality had preferr'd the Actors of the other House 
to those of his own : To ballance this Misfortune, he 
was resolv'd, at least, to be well with their Domes- 
ticks, and therefore cunningly open'd the upper 
Gallery to them gratis: For before this time no 
Footman was ever admitted, or had presum'd to 
come into it, till after the fourth Act was ended : This 
additional Privilege (the greatest Plague that ever 
Play-house had to complain of) he conceived would 
not only incline them to give us a good Word in the 
respective Families they belong'd to, but would natu- 
rally incite them to come all Hands aloft in the Crack 

Tragedy, they went to Lincolns-Inn-Fields ; if to Comedy, they 
flockt to Drury-lane." 

' Christopher Rich, of whom the " Comparison between the two 
Stages" says (p. 15): '' Critick. In the other House there's an 
old snarling Lawyer Master and Sovereign ; a waspish, ignorant, 
pettifogger in Law and Poetry ; one who understands Poetry no 
more than Algebra ; he wou'd sooner have the Grace of God than 
do everybody Justice." 



234 THE LIFE OF 

of our Applauses : And indeed it so far succeeded, 
that it often thunder'd from the full Gallery above, 
while our thin Pit and Boxes below were in the 
utmost Serenity. This riotous Privilege, so craftily 
given, and which from Custom was at last ripen'd 
into Right, became the most disgraceful N usance 
that ever depreciated the Theatre.^ How often have 
the most polite Audiences, in the most affecting 
Scenes of the best Plays, been disturb'd and insulted 
by the Noise and Clamour of these savage Specta- 
tors ? From the same narrow way of thinking, too, 
were so many ordinary People and unlick'd Cubs of 
Condition admitted behind our Scenes for Money, 
and sometimes without it: The Plagues and Incon- 
veniences of which Custom we found so intolerable, 
when we afterwards had the Stage in our Hands, 
that at the Hazard of our Lives we were forced to 
get rid of them ; and our only Expedient was by 
refusing Money from all Persons without Distinction 
at the Stage- Door; by this means we preserved to 
ourselves the Right and Liberty of chusing our own 
Company there : And by a strict Observance of this 
Order we brought what had been before debas'd 
into all the Licenses of a Lobby into the Decencies 
of a Drawing- Room.'' 

^ This privilege seems to have been granted about 1697 or 1698. 
It was not abolished till 1737. OnsthMay, 1737, footmen having 
been deprivedof their privilege, 300 of them broke into Drury Lane 
and did great damage. Many were, however, arrested, and no 
attempt was made to renew hostilities. 

* Queen Anne issued several Edicts forbidding persons to be 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 235 

About the distressful Time I was speaking of, in 
the Year 1696/ Wilks, who now had been five Years 
in ofreat Esteem on the Dublin Theatre, return'd to 
that of Drttry-Lane ; in which last he had first set 
out, and had continued to act some small Parts for 
one Winter only. The considerable Figure which 
he so lately made upon the Stage in London, makes 
me imagine that a particular Account of his first 
commencing Actor may not be unacceptable to the 
Curious ; I shall, therefore, give it them as I had it 
from his own Mouth. 

In King James s Reign he had been some time 
employ'd in the Secretary's Office in Ireland (his 
native Country) and remain'd in it till after the 
Battle of the Boyn, which completed the Revolution. 
Upon that happy and unexpected Deliverance, the 
People of Dublin, among the various Expressions of 
their Joy, had a mind to have a Play ; but the Actors 
being dispersed during the War, some private Per- 
sons agreed in the best Manner they were able to 
give one to the Publick gratis at the Theatre. The 
Play was Othello, in which Wilks acted the Moor ; 
and the Applause he received in it warm'd him to so 
strong an Inclination for the Stage, that he imme- 

admitted behind the scenes, and in the advertisements of both 
theatres there appeared the announcement, " By Her Majesty's 
Command no Persons are to be admitted behind the Scenes." 
Gibber here, no doubt, refers to the Sign Manual of 13 Nov. 
17 1 1, a copy of which is among the Chamberlain's Papers. 

^ Gibber is probably incorrect here. It seems certain from the 
bills that Wilks did not re-appear in London before 1698. ^ 



236 THE LIFE OF 

diately prefer'd it to all his other Views in Life : for 
he quitted his Post, and with the first fair Occasion 
came over to try his Fortune in the (then only) Com- 
pany of Actors in London. The Person who sup- 
ply'd his Post in Dublin, he told me, raised to him- 
self from thence a Fortune of fifty thousand Pounds. 
Here you have a much stronger Instance of an ex- 
travagant Passion for the Stage than that which I 
have elsewhere shewn in my self ; I only quitted my 
Hopes of being preferr'd to the like Post for it ; but 
Wilks quitted his actual Possession for the imaginary 
Happiness which the Life of an Actor presented to 
him. And, though possibly we might both have 
better'd our Fortunes in a more honourable Station, 
yet whether better Fortunes might have equally 
gratify'd our Vanity (the universal Passion of Man- 
kind) may admit of a Question. 

Upon his being formerly received into the Theatre- 
Royal (which was in the Winter after I had been initi- 
ated) his Station there was much upon the same Class 
with my own ; our Parts were generally of an equal 
Insignificancy, not of consequence enough to give 
either a Preference : But Wilks being more impatient 
of his low Condition than I was, (and, indeed, the 
Company was then so well stock'd with good Actors 
that there was very little hope of getting forward) 
laid hold of a more expeditious way for his Advance- 
ment, and returned agen to Dublin with Mr. Ashbury, 
the Patentee of that Theatre, to act in his new Com- 
pany there : There went with him at the same time 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 237 

Mrs. Butler, whose Character I have already given, 
and Estcourt, who had not appeared on any Stage, 
and was yet only known as an excellent Mimick : 
Wilks having no Competitor in Dublin, was imme- 
diately preferr'd to whatever parts his Inclination led 
him, and his early Reputation on that Stage as soon 
raised in him an Ambition to shew himself on a 
better. And I have heard him say (in Raillery of 
the Vanity which young Actors are liable to) that 
when the News of Monfort'?, Death came to h'cland, 
he from that time thought his Fortune was made, 
and took a Resolution to return a second time to 
England With, the first Opportunity; but as his En- 
gagements to the Stage where he was were too 
strong to be suddenly broke from, he return'd not to 
the T/ieatre-RoyartiW the Year 1696.^ 

Upon his first Arrival, Powel, who was now in 
Possession of all the chief Parts of Monforl, and the 
only Actor that stood in Wilks s way, in seeming 
Civility offer'd him his choice of whatever he thought 
fit to make his first Appearance in ; though, in reality, 
the Favour was intended to hurt him. But Wilks 
rightly judg'd it more modest to accept only of a 
Part of Powel's, and which Monfort had never 
acted, that of Palamede in Dry dens, Marriage Ala- 
mode. Here, too, he had the Advantage of having 
the Ball play'd into his Hand by the inimitable 
Mrs. Monfort, who was then his Melantha in the 
same Play : Whatever Fame Wilks had brought 
' See note on page 235, 



238 THE LIFE OF 

with him from Ireland, he as yet appear'd but a very- 
raw Actor to what he was afterwards allow'd to be : 
His Fauhs, however, I shall rather leave to the 
Judgments of those who then may remember him, 
than to take upon me the disagreeable Office of being 
particular upon them, farther than by saying, that in 
this Part oiPalamede he was short of Powel, and miss'd 
a good deal of the loose Humour of the Character, 
which the other more happily hit/ But however he 
was young, erect, of a pleasing Aspect, and, in the 
whole, gave the Town and the Stage sufficient Hopes 
of him. I ought to make some Allowances, too, for 
the Restraint he must naturally have been under 
from his first Appearance upon a new Stage. But 
from that he soon recovered, and grew daily more 
in Favour, not only of the Town, but likewise of 
the Patentee, whom Powel, before Wilkss Arrival, 
had treated in almost what manner he pleas'd. 

Upon this visible Success of Wilks, the pretended 
Contempt which Powel had held him in began to 
sour into an open Jealousy ; he now plainly saw he 
was a formidable Rival, and (which more hurt him) 
saw, too, that other People saw it ; and therefore 
found it high time to oppose and be troublesome to 
him. But Wilks happening to be as jealous of his 

^ " The Laureat," p. 44 : " Wilks, in this Part of Palamede, 
behav'd with a modest Diffidence, and yet maintain'd the Spirit of 
his Part." The author says, on the same page, that Powel never 
could appear a Gentleman. " His Conversation, his Manners, his 
Dress, neither on nor off the Stage, bore any Similitude to that 
Character." 




WILLIAM PF. NKETHMAI 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 239 

Fame as the other, you may imagine such clashing 
Candidates could not be long without a Rupture : In 
short, a Challenge, I very well remember, came from 
Powel^ when he was hot-headed ; but the next Morn- 
ing he was cool enough to let it end in favour of 
Wilks. Yet however the Magnanimity on either 
Part might subside, the Animosity was as deep in 
the Heart as ever, tho' it was not afterwards so 
openly avow'd : For when Powel found that intimi- 
dating would not carry his Point ; but that Wilksy 
when provok'd, would really give Battle,^ he {Powel) 
grew so out of Humour that he cock'd his Hat, and 
in his Passion walk'd off to the Service of the Com- 
pany in Lincoln s-Inn Fields. But there finding 
more Competitors, and that he made a worse Figure 
among them than in the Company he came from, he 
stay'd but one Winter with them^ before he return'd 
to his old Quarters in Drury-Lane ; where, after 
these unsuccessful Pushes of his Ambition, he at last 
became a Martyr to Negligence, and quietly submitted 
to the Advantages and Superiority which (during his 
late Desertion) Wilks had more easily got over him. 

^ " The Laureat," p. 44 : "I believe he (Wilks) was obliged to 
fight the Heroic George Powel, as well as one or two others, who 
were piqued at his being so highly encouraged by the Town, and 
their Rival, before he cou'd be quiet." 

* Powell seems to have been at Lincoln's Inn Fields for two 
seasons, those of 1702 and 1703, and for part of a third, 1703-4. 
He returned to Drury Lane about June, 1704. For the arbitrary 
conduct of the Lord Chamberlain, in allowing him to desert to Lin- 
coln's Inn Fields (or the Haymarket), but arresting him when he 
deserted back again to Drury Lane, see after, in Chap. X. 

Q 



240 THE LIFE OF 

However trifling these Theatrical Anecdotes may 
seem to a sensible Reader, yet, as the different Con- 
duct of these rival Actors may be of use to others of 
the same Profession, and from thence may contribute 
to the Pleasure of the Publick, let that be my Excuse 
for pursuing them. I must therefore let it be known 
that, though in Voice and Ear Nature had been more 
kind to Powel, yet he so often lost the Value of them 
by an unheedful Confidence, that the constant wake- 
ful Care and Decency of Wilks left the other far be- 
hind in the publick Esteem and Approbation. Nor 
was his Memory less tenacious than that of Wilks ; 
but Powel put too much Trust in it, and idly deferred 
the Studying of his Parts, as School-boys do their 
Exercise, to the last Day, which commonly brings 
them out proportionably defective. But Wilks never 
lost an Hour of precious Time, and was, in all his 
Parts, perfect to such an Exactitude, that I question 
if in forty Years he ever five times chang'd or mis- 
plac'd an Article in any one of them. To be Master 
of this uncommon Diligence is adding to the Gift of 
Nature all that is in an Actor's Power; and this 
Duty of Studying perfect whatever Actor is remiss 
in, he will proportionably find that Nature may have 
been kind to him in vain, for though Powel had an 
Assurance that cover'd this Neglect much better than 
a Man of more Modesty might have done, yet, with 
all his Intrepidity, very often the Diffidence and 
Concern for what he was to say made him lose the 
Look of what he was to be : While, therefore, Powel 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 24 1 

presided, his idle Example made this Fault so com- 
mon to others, that I cannot but confess, in the general 
Infection, I had my Share of it ; nor was my too 
critical Excuse for it a good one, viz. That scarce 
one Part in five that fell to my Lot was worth the 
Labour. But to shew Respect to an Audience is 
worth the best Actor's Labour, and, his Business 
consider'd, he must be a very impudent one that 
comes before them with a conscious Negligence of 
what he is about. ^ But Wilks was never known to 
make any of these venial Distinctions, nor, however 
barren his Part might be, could bear even the Self- 
Reproach of favouring his Memory : And I have 
been astonished to see him swallow a Volume of 
Froth and Insipidity in a new Play that we were 

^ Gibber is here somewhat in the position of Satan reproving 
sin, if Davies's statements (" Dram. Misc.," iii. 480) are accurate. 
He says : — 

" This attention to the gaming-table would not, we may be as- 
sured, render him [Gibber] fitter for his business of the stage. After 
many an unlucky run at Tom's Goffee-house [in Russell Street], 
he has arrived at the playhouse in great tranquillity ; and then, 
humming over an opera-tune, he has walked on the stage not well 
prepared in the part he was to act. Gibber should not have 
reprehended Powell so severely for neglect and imperfect repre- 
sentation : I have seen him at fault where it was least expected; 
in parts which he had acted a hundred times, and particularly in 
Sir Courtly Nice ; but GoUey dexterously supplied the deficiency 
of his memory by prolonging his ceremonious bow to the lady, and 
drawling out ' Your humble servant, madam,' to an extraordinary 
length ; then taking a pinch of snuff, and strutting deliberately 
across the stage, he has gravely asked the prompter, what is 
next?" 



242 THE LIFE OF 

sure could not live above three Days, tho' favour'd 
and recommended to the Stage by some good person 
of Quality. Upon such Occasions, in Compassion 
to his fruitless Toil and Labour, I have sometimes 

cry'd out with Cato Painfzil P res eminence ! So 

insupportable, in my Sense, was the Task, when the 
bare Praise of not havinsf been nep^lig-ent was sure to 
be the only Reward of it. But so indefatigable was 
the Diligence of Wilks, that he seem'd to love it, as 
a good Man does Virtue, for its own sake ; of which 
the following Instance will give you an extraordinary 
Proof. 

In some new Comedy he happen'd to complain of 
a crabbed Speech in his Part, which, he said, gave 
him more trouble to study than all the rest of it had 
done ; upon which he apply'd to the Author either 
to soften or shorten it. The Author, that he might 
make the Matter quite easy to him, fairly cut it all 
out. But when he got home from the Rehearsal, 
Wilks thought it such an Indignity to his Memory 
that any thing should be thought too hard for it, 
that he actually made himself perfect in that Speech, 
though he knew it was never to be made use of. 
From this singular Act of Supererogation you may 
judge how indefatigable the Labour of his Memory 
must have been when his Profit and Honour were 
more concern'd to make use of it.^ 

^ " The Laureat," p. 45 : "I have known him (Wilks) lay a 
Wager and win it, that he wou'd repeat the Part of Truewitt in 
the Silent Woman^ which consists of thirty Lengths of Paper, as 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 243 

But besides this indispensable Quality of Diligence, 
IVilks had the Advantage of a sober Character in 
private Life, which Powel, not having the least Regard 
to, labour'd under the unhappy Disfavour, not to say 
Contempt, of the Publick, to whom his licentious 
Courses were no Secret : Even when he did well 
that natural Prejudice pursu'd him ; neither the 
Heroe nor the Gentleman, the young Ammon^ nor 
the Dorimant^ could conceal from the conscious 
Spectator the True George Powel. And this sort of 
Disesteem or Favour every Actor will feel, and, 
more or less, have his Share of, as he has, or has noty 
a due Regard to his private Life and Reputation. 
Nay, even false Reports shall affect him, and become 
the Cause, or Pretence at least, of undervaluing or 
treating him injuriously. Let me give a known In- 
stance of it, and at the same time a Justification of 
myself from an Imputation that was laid upon me 
not many Years before I quitted the Theatre, of which 
you will see the Consequence. 

After the vast Success of that new Species of Dra- 
matick Poetry, the Beggars Opera^ The Year follow- 
ing I was so stupid as to attempt something of the 
same Kind, upon a quite different Foundation, that 

they call 'em, (that is, one Quarter of a Sheet on both Sides to a 
Length) without misplacing a single Word, or missing an {and^ or 
an ipr)." 

^ Alexander in " The Rival Queens." 

^ In "The Man of the Mode ; or, Sir Fopling Flutter." 

' Produced at Lincoln's Inn Fields, 29th January, 1728. 



244 THE LIFE OF 

of recommending Virtue and Innocence ; which I 
ignorantly thought might not have a less Pretence 
to Favour than setting Greatness and Authority in 
a contemptible, and the most vulgar Vice and 
Wickedness, in an amiable Light. But behold how 
fondly I was mistaken ! Love in a Riddle^ (for so 
my new-fangled Performance was called) was as 
vilely damn'd and hooted at as so vain a Presumption 
in the idle Cause of Virtue could deserve. Yet this 

^ " Love in a Riddle." A Pastoral. Produced at Drury Lane, 
7th January, 1729. 

Arcas Mr. Mills. 

.^GON Mr. Harper. 

Amyntas Mr. Williams. 

Iphis Mrs. Thurmond. 

Philautus, a conceited Corinthian courtier Mr. Gibber. 

CoRYDON Mr. Griffin. 

CiMON Mr. Miller. 

Mopsus Mr. Gates. 

Damon Mr. Ray. 

Ianthe, daughter to Arcas Mrs. Gibber. 

Pastora, daughter to JEgon Mrs. Lindar. 

Phillida, daughter to Gorydon .... Mrs. Raftor. 

Mrs. Raftor (at this time Miss was not generally used) was 
afterwards the famous Mrs. Glive. Ghetwood, in his "History of 
the Stage," 1 749 (p. 128), says : " I remember the first night of Love 
in a Riddle (which was murder'd in the same Year) a Pastoral 
Opera wrote by the Lanreat, which the Hydra-headed Multitude 
resolv'd to worry without hearing, a Gustom with Authors of Merit, 
when Miss Raftor came on in the part of Phillida, the monstrous 
Roar subsided. A Person in the Stage-Box, next to my Post, 
called out to his Gompanion in the following elegant Style — 
' Zounds ! Tom / take Gare ! or this charming little Devil will 
save all.' " Ghetwood's " Post " was that of Prompter. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 245 

Is not what I complain of ; I will allow my Poetry 
to be as much below the other as Taste or Criticism 
can sink it : I will grant likewise that the applauded 
Author of the Beggars Opera (whom I knew to be 
an honest good-natur'd Man, and who, when he had 
descended to write more like one. In the Cause of 
Virtue, had been as unfortunate as others of that 
Class ;) I will grant, I say, that In his Beggars Opera 
he had more skilfully gratlfy'd the Publick Taste 
than all the brightest Authors that ever writ before 
him ; and I have sometimes thought, from the 
Modesty of his Motto, Nos hcsc novimus esse nihil^ 
that he gave them that Performance as a Satyr upon 
the Depravity of their Judgment (as Ben. Johnsoji of 
old was said to give his Bai^holomew-Fair In Ridi- 
cule of the vulgar Taste which had disliked his 
Sejanus^) and that, by artfully seducing them to be 
the Champions of the Immoralities he himself detested, 
he should be amply reveng'd on their former Severity 
and Ignorance. This were Indeed a Triumph ! which 
even the Author of Cato might have envy'd, Cato ! 
'tis true, succeeded, but reach'd not, by full forty Days, 
the Progress and Applauses of the Beggars Opera. 
Will It, however, admit of a Question, which of the 
two Compositions a good Writer would rather wish 
to have been the Author of? Yet, on the other 
side, must we not allow that to have taken a whole 
Nation, High and Low, into a general Applause, 

^ Martial, xiii. 2, 8. 

^ Gibber should have written Catiline. 



246 THE LIFE OF 

has shown a Power in Poetry which, though often 
attempted in the same kind, none but this one 
Author could ever yet arrive at ? By what Rule, 
then, are we to judge of our true National Taste ? 
But to keep a little closer to my Point, 

The same Author the next Year had, according 
to the Laws of the Land, transported his Heroe to 
the West- Indies in a Second Part to the Beggars 
Opej'a\^ but so it happen'd, to the Surprize of the 
Publick, this Second Part was forbid to come upon 
the Stage ! Various were the Speculations upon this 
act of Power : Some thought that the Author, others 
that the Town, was hardly dealt with ; a third sort, 
who perhaps had envy'd him the Success of his first 
Part, affirm'd, when it was printed, that whatever the 
Intention might be, the Fact was in his Favour, that 
he had been a greater Gainer by Subscriptions to his 
Copy than he could have been by a bare Theatrical 
Presentation. Whether any Part of these Opinions 
were true I am not concerned to determine or con- 
sider. But how they affected me I am going to tell 
you. Soon after this Prohibition,^ my Performance 
was to come upon the Stage, at a time when many 

^ This second part was called " Polly." In his Preface Gay 
gives an account of its being vetoed. The prohibition undoubtedly 
was in revenge for the political satire in "The Beggar's Opera." 
"Polly" was published by subscription, and probably brought the 
author more in that way than its production would have done. It 
was played for the first time at the Haymarket, 19th June, 1777. 
It is, as Genest says, miserably inferior to the first part. 

^ "Polly" was officially prohibited on 12th December, 172S. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 247 

People were out of Humour at the late Disappoint- 
ment, and seem'd willing to lay hold of any Pretence 
of making a Reprizal. Great Umbrage was taken 
that I was permitted to have the whole Town to my 
self, by this absolute Forbiddance of what they had 
more mind to have been entertain'd with. And, 
some few Days before my Bawble was acted, I was 
inform'd that a strong Party would be made against 
it : This Report I slighted, as not conceiving why 
it should be true ; and when I was afterwards told 
what was the pretended Provocation of this Party, I 
slighted it still more, as having less Reason to sup- 
pose any Persons could believe me capable (had I 
had the Power) of giving such a Provocation. The 
Report, it seems, that had run against me was this : 
That, to make way for the Success of my own Play, 
I had privately found means, or made Interest, that 
the Second Part of the Beggars Opera might be 
suppressed. What an involuntary Compliment did 
the Reporters of this falshood make me ? to suppose 
me of Consideration enough to Influence a great 
Officer of State to gratify the Spleen or Envy of a 
Comedian so far as to rob the Publick of an inno- 
cent Diversion (if it were such) that none but that 
cunning Comedian might be suffered to give it 
them.^ This is so very gross a Supposition that it 

^ I know only one case in which a new piece is said to have 
been prohibited because the other house was going to play one on 
the same subject. This is Swiney's "Quacks; or, Love's the 
Physician," produced at Drury Lane on 18th March, 1705, after 



248 THE LIFE OF 

needs only Its own senseless Face to confound it ; 
let that alone, then, be my Defence against it. But 
against blind Malice and staring inhumanity what- 
ever is upon the Stage has no Defence ! There 
they knew I stood helpless and expos'd to whatever 
they might please to load or asperse me with. I had 
not considered, poor Devil ! that from the Security 
of a full Pit Dunces might be Criticks, Cowards 
valiant, and 'Prentices Gentlemen! Whether any 
such were concern'd in the Murder of my Play I am 
not certain, for I never endeavour'd to discover any 
one of Its Assassins ; I cannot afford them a milder 
Name, from their unmanly manner of destroying it. 
Had it been heard, they might have left me nothing 
to say to them : 'Tis true It faintly held up its 
wounded Head a second Day, and would have spoke 
for Mercy, but was not suffer'd. Not even the Pre- 
sence of a Royal Heir apparent could protect it. 
But then I was reduced to be serious with them ; 
their Clamour then became an Insolence, which I 
thought it my Duty by the Sacrifice of any Interest 
of my own to put an end to. I therefore quitted the 
Actor for the Author, and, stepping forward to the 
Pit, told them, That since I found they zmre not 
inclind that this Play should go forward, I gave theiJi 
77ty Word that after this Night it should never be 
acted agen : But that, in the mean time, I hop'd they 
would consider in whose Presence they were, and for 

being twice vetoed. Swiney in his Preface gives the above as the 
reason for the prohibition. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 249 

that Reason at least would suspend what farther 
Marks of their Displeasttre they might imagine I had 
deserved. At this there was a dead Silence ; and 
after some little Pause, a few civiliz'd Hands signify'd 
their Approbation. When the Play went on, I ob- 
serv'd about a Dozen Persons of no extraordinary 
Appearance sullenly walk'd out of the Pit. After 
which, every Scene of it, while uninterrupted, met 
with more Applause than my best Hopes had ex- 
pected. But it came too late : Peace to its Ma7ies ! 
I had given my Word It should fall, and I kept it by 
giving out another Play for the next Day, though I 
knew the Boxes were all lett for the same aorain. 
Such, then, was the Treatment I met with : How 
much of it the Errors of the Play might deserve I 
refer to the Judgment of those who may have Curio- 
sity and idle time enough to read it.^ But if I had 
no occasion to complain of the Reception it met with 
from Its qicieted Audience, sure It can be no great 
Vanity to Impute Its Disgraces chiefly to that severe 
Resentment which a groundless Report of me had 
Inflam'd : Yet those Disgraces have left me some- 
thing to boast of, an Honour preferable even to the 
Applause of my Enemies : A noble Lord came 
behind the Scenes, and told me, from the Box, where 
he was in waiting, That what I said to qniet the 
Audience was extremely well taken there ; and that I 
had been commended for it in a veiy obligiiig manner. 

^ Gibber afterwards formed the best scenes of " Love in a 
Riddle " into a Ballad Opera, called " Damon and Phillida." 



250 THE LIFE OF 

Now, though this was the only Tumult that I have 
known to have been so effectually appeas'd these 
fifty Years by any thing that could be said to an 
Audience in the same Humour, I will not take any 
great Merit to myself upon it ; because when, like me, 
you will but humbly submit to their doing you all 
the Mischief they can, they will at any time be 
satisfy'd. 

I have mention'd this particular Fact to inforce 
what I before observ'd. That the private Character 
of an Actor will always more or less affect his 
Publick Performance. And if I suffer'd so much 
from the bare Stispicion of my having been guilty of 
a base Action, what should not an Actor expect that 
is hardy enough to think his whole private Character 
of no consequence ? I could offer many more, tho' 
less severe Instances of the same Nature. I have 
seen the most tender Sentiment of Love in Tragedy 
create Laughter, instead of Compassion, when it 
has been applicable to the real Engagements of the 
Person that utter'd it. I have known good Parts 
thrown up, from an humble Consciousness that some- 
thing in them might put an Audience in mind of — 
what was rather wish'd might be forgotten : Those re- 
markable Words of Evad7ie, in the Maid's Tragedy — 
A Maidenhead, Amintor, at my Years ? — have some- 
times been a much stronger Jest for being a true 
one. But these are Reproaches which in all Nations 
the Theatre must have been us'd to, unless we could 
suppose Actors something more than Human Crea- 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 25 I 

tures, void of Faults or Frailties. 'Tis a Misfortune 
at least not limited to the English Stage. I have 
seen the better-bred Audience In Pat-is made merry- 
even with a modest Expression, when It has come 
from the Mouth of an Actress whose private Cha- 
racter It seem'd not to belong to. The Apprehension 
of these kind of Fleers from the Witlings of a Pit 
has been carry'd so far In our own Country, that a 
late valuable Actress^ (who was conscious her Beauty 
was not her greatest Merit) desired the Warmth of 
some Lines might be abated when they have made 
her too remarkably handsome : But in this Discre- 
tion she was alone, few others were afraid of unde- 
serving the finest things that could be said to them. 
But to consider this Matter seriously, I cannot but 
think, at a Play, a sensible Auditor would contribute 
all he could to his being well deceiv'd, and not suffer 
his Imagination so far to wander from the well-acted 
Character before him, as to gratify a frivolous Spleen 
by Mocks or personal Sneers on the Performer, at 
the Expence of his better Entertainment. But I 
must now take up Wilks and Powel again where I 
left them. - ' 

Though the Contention for Superiority between 

^ Bellchambers notes that this was probably Mrs. Oldfield. 
But I think this more than doubtful, for this lady not only was 
fair, but also, as Touchstone says, "had the gift to know it." It 
is, of course, impossible to say decidedly to whom Gibber re- 
ferred ; but I fancy that Mrs. Barry is the actress who best fulfils 
the conditions, though, of course, I must admit that her having 
been dead for a quarter of a century weakens my case. 



252 THE LIFE OF 

them seem'd about this time to end in favour of the 
former, yet the Distress of the Patentee (in having 
his Servant his Master, as Powcl had lately been), 
was not much reliev'd by the Victory ; he had only 
chang'd the Man, but not the Malady : For Wilks, 
by being in Possession of so many good Parts, fell 
into the common Error of most Actors, that of over- 
rating their Merit, or never thinking it is so tho- 
roughly consider'd as it ought to be, which generally 
makes them proportionably troublesome to the 
Master, who they might consider only pays them to 
profit by them. The Patentee therefore found it as 
difficult to satisfy the continual Demands of Wilks 
as it was dangerous to refuse them ; very few were 
made that were not granted, and as few were granted 
as were not grudg'd him : Not but our good Master 
was as sly a Tyrant as ever was at the Head of a 
Theatre ; for he gave the Actors more Liberty, and 
fewer Days Pay, than any of his Predecessors : He 
would laugh with them over a Bottle, and bite^ them 
in their Bargains : He kept them poor, that they might 
not be able to rebel ; and sometimes merry, that they 
might not think of it : All their Articles of Agree- 
ment had a Clause in them that he was sure to creep 
out at, viz. Their respective Sallaries were to be paid 
in such manner and proportion as others of the same 

^ A " bite " is what we now term a " sell." In "The Spectator," 
Nos. 47 and 504, some account of " Biters " is given : "a Race 
of Men that are perpetually employed in laughing at those Mis- 
takes Nvhich are of their own Production." 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 253 

Company were paid ; which in effect made them all, 
when he pleas'd, but limited Sharers of Loss, and 
himself sole. Proprietor of Profits ; and this Loss or 
Profit they only had such verbal Accounts of as he 
thought proper to give them. 'Tis true, he would 
sometimes advance them Money (but not more than 
he knew at most could be due to them) upon their 
Bonds ; upon which, whenever they were mutinous, 
he would threaten to sue them. This was the Net 
we danc'd in for several Years : But no wonder we 
were Dupes, while our Master was a Lawyer. This 
Grievance, however, Wilks was resolv'd, for himself 
at least, to remedy at any rate ; and grew daily more 
intractable, for every Day his Redress was delay'd. 
Here our Master found himself under a Difficulty 
he knew not well how to get out of : For as he was 
a close subtle Man, he seldom made use of a Con- 
fident in his Schemes of Government : ^ But here 
the old Expedient of Delay would stand him in no 
longer stead ; Wilks must instantly be comply' d 
with, or Powel come again into Power ! In a word, 
he was push'd so home, that he was reduc'd even to 
take my Opinion into his Assistance : For he knew 
I was a Rival to neither of them ; perhaps, too, he 
had fancy'd that, from the Success of my first Play, 
I might know as much of the Stage, and what made 
an Actor valuable, as either of them : He saw, too, 
that tho' they had each of them five good Parts to 
my one, yet the Applause which in my few I had 
' This is a capital sketch of Christopher Rich. 



254 THE LIFE OF 

met with, was given me by better Judges than as 
yet had approv'd of the best they had done. They 
generally measured the goodness of a Part by the 
Quantity or Length of it : I thought none bad for 
being short that were closely-natural ; nor any the 
better for being long, without that valuable Quality. 
But in this, I doubt, as to their Interest, they judg'd 
better than myself; for I have generally observ'd 
that those who do a great deal not ill, have been 
preferr'd to those who do but little, though never so 
masterly. And therefore I allow that, while there 
were so few good Parts, and as few good Judges of 
them, it ought to have been no Wonder to me, that 
as an Actor I was less valued by the Master or the 
common People than either of them : All the Advan- 
tage I had of them was, that by not being trouble- 
some I had more of our Master's personal Inclina- 
tion than any Actor of the male Sex ; ^ and so much 
of it, that I was almost the only one whom at that 
time he us'd to take into his Parties of Pleasure ; 
very often tete a tete, and sometimes in a Partie 
qua7Tee. These then were the Qualifications, how- 
ever good or bad, to which may be imputed our 
Master's having made choice of me to assist him in 
the Difficulty under which he now labour'd. He 

^ Gibber's hint of Rich's weakness for the fair sex is corroborated 
by the "Comparison between the two Stages," page i6 : " Critick. 
He is Monarch of the Stage, tho' he knows not how to govern one 
Province in his Dominion, but that of Signing, Sealing, and some- 
thing else, that shall be nameless." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 255 

was himself sometimes inclin'd to set up Powel again 
as a Check upon the over-bearing Temper of Wilks : 
Tho' to say truth, he Hk'd neither of them, but was 
still under a Necessity that one of them should 
preside, tho' he scarce knew which of the two Evils 
to chuse. This Question, when I happen'd to be 
alone with him, was often debated in our Evening 
Conversation ; nor, indeed, did I find it an easy 
matter to know which Party I ought to recommend 
to his Election. I knew they were neither of them 
Well-wishers to me, as in common they were 
Enemies to most Actors in proportion to the Merit 
that seem'd to be rising in them. But as I had the 
Prosperity of the Stage more at Heart than any 
other Consideration, I could not be long undeter- 
mined in my Opinion, and therefore gave it to our 
Master at once in Favour of Wilks. I, with all the 
Force I could muster, insisted, " That li Powcl wQr& 
*' preferr'd, the ill Example of his Negligence and 
" abandon'd Character (whatever his Merit on the 
" Stage might be) would reduce our Company to 
" Contempt and Beggary; observing, at the same 
" time, in how much better Order our Affairs went 
*' forward since Wilks came among us, of which I 
" recounted several Instances that are not so neces- 
" sary to tire my Reader with. All this, though he 
" allow'd to be true, yet Powel, he said, was a better 
" Actor than Wilks when he minded his Business 
" (that is to say, when he was, what he seldom was, 
" sober). But Pozucl, it seems, had a still greater 

R 



256 THE LIFE OF 

" Merit to him, which was, (as he observ'd) that 
" when Affairs were in his Hands, he had kept the 
" Actors quiet, without one Day's Pay, for six 
" Weeks together, and it was not every body could 
" do that ; for you see, said he, PVi/ks will never be 
" easy unless I give him his whole Pay, when others 
" have it not, and what an Injustice would that be 
" to the rest if I were to comply with him ? How 
" do I know but then they may be all in a Mutiny, 
" and mayhap (that was his Expression) with Powel 
" at the Head of 'em ?" By this Specimen of our 
Debate, It may be judg'd under how particular and 
merry a Government the Theatre then labour'd. 
To conclude, this Matter ended in a Resolution to 
sign a new Agreement with Wilks, which entitled 
him to his full Pay of four Pounds a Week without 
any conditional Deductions. How far soever my 
Advice might have contributed to our Master's settling 
his Affairs upon this Foot, I never durst make the 
least Merit of it to Wilks, well knowing that his 
ereat Heart would have taken it as a mortal Affront 
had I (tho' never so distantly) hinted that his 
Demands had needed any Assistance but the Jus- 
tice of them. From this time, then, Wilks became 
first Minister, or Bustle-master-general of the Com- 
pany.^ He now seem'd to take new Delight in 

^ "The Laureat," p. 48 : " If Minister Wilks was now alive to 
hear thee prate thus, Mr. Bayes, I would not give one Half-penny 
for thy Ears ; but if he were alive, thou durst not for thy Ears 
rattle on in this affected MatcJiiavilian stile." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 257 

keeping the Actors close to their Business, and got 
every Play reviv'd with Care in which he had acted 
the chief Part in Dtiblm : 'Tis true, this might be 
done with a particular View of setting off himself to 
Advantage ; but if at the same time it served the 
Company, he ought not to want our Commendation : 
Now, tho' my own Conduct neither had the Appear- 
ance of his Merit, nor the Reward that follow'd his 
Industry, I cannot help observing that it shew'd me, 
to the best of my Power, a more cordial Common- 
wealth's Man : His first Views in serving himself 
made his Service to the whole but an incidental 
Merit ; whereas, by my prosecuting the Means to 
make him easy in his Pay, unknown to him, or with- 
out asking any Favour for my self at the same time, 
I gave a more unquestionable Proof of my preferring 
the Publick to my Private Interest : From the same 
Principle I never murmur'd at whatever little Parts 
fell to my Share, and though I knew it would not 
recommend me to the Favour of the common 
People, I often submitted to play wicked Charac- 
ters rather than they should be worse done by 
weaker Actors than my self: But perhaps, in all this 
Patience under my Situation, I supported my Spirits 
by a conscious Vanity : For I fancied I had more 
Reason to value myself upon being sometimes the 
Confident and Companion of our Master, than Wilks 
had in all the more publick Favours he had extorted 
from him. I imagined, too, there was sometimes as 
much Skill to be shewn in a short Part, as in the 



258 THE LIFE OF 

most voluminous, which he generally made choice 
of; that even the coxcombly Follies of a '^vc John 
Daw might as well distinguish the Capacity of an 
Actor, as all the dry Enterprizes and busy Conduct 
of a Truewit} Nor could I have any Reason to 
repine at the Superiority he enjoy'd, when I con- 
sider'd at how dear a Rate it was purchased, at the 
continual Expence of a restless Jealousy and fretful 

Impatience These were the Passions that, in 

the height of his Successes, kept him lean to his last 
Hour, while what I wanted in Rank or Glory was 
amply made up to me in Ease and Chearfulness. 
But let not this Observation either lessen his Merit 
or lift up my own; since our different Tempers were 
not in our Choice, but equally natural to both of us. 
To be employ'd on the Stage was the Delight of 
his Life; to be justly excused from it was the Joy 
of mine : I lov'd Ease, and he Pre-eminence : In 
that, he might be more commendable. Tho' he 
often disturb'd me, he seldom could do it without 
more disordering himself:^ In our Disputes, his 
Warmth could less bear Truth than I could support 
manifest Injuries : He would hazard our Undoing 
to gratify his Passions, tho' otherwise an honest 



^ Characters in Ben Jonson's " Silent Woman." 
■^ "The Laureat," p. 49 : " Did you not, by your general Mis- 
behaviour towards Authors and Actors, bring an Odium on your 
Brother Menagers, as well as yourself; and were not these, with 
many others, the Reasons, that sometimes gave Occasion to IVilks, 
to chastise you, with his Tongue only." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 259 

Man ; and I rather chose to give up my Reason, or 
not see my Wrong, than ruin our Community by an 
equal Rashness. By this opposite Conduct our 
Accounts at the End of our Labours stood thus : 
While he lived he was the elder Man, when he died 
he was not so old as I am : He never left the Staee 
till he left the World : I never so well enjoy'd the 
World as when I left the Stage: He died in Posses- 
sion of his Wishes; and I, by having had a less 
cholerick Ambition, am still tasting mine in Health 
and Liberty. But as he in a great measure wore 
out the Organs of Life in his incessant Labours to 
gratify the Publick, the Many whom he gave Plea- 
sure to will always owe his Memory a favourable 
Report — Some Facts that will vouch for the Truth 
of this Account will be found in the Sequel of these 
Memoirs. If I have spoke with more Freedom of 
his quondam Competitor Powel, let my good Inten- 
tions to future Actors, in shewing what will so much 
concern them to avoid, be my Excuse for it : For 
though Powel had from Nature much more than 
Wilks ; in Voice and Ear, in Elocution in Tragedy, 
and Humour in Comedy, greatly the Advantage of 
him ; yet, as I have observ'd, from the Neglect and 
Abuse of those valuable Gifts, he suffer'd Wilks to 
be of thrice the Service to our Society. Let me 
give another Instance of the Reward and Favour 
which, in a Theatre, Diligence and Sobriety seldom 
fail of: Mills the elder ' grew into the Friendship of 
^ See memoir of John Mills at end of second volume. 



2 6o THE LIFE OF 

Wilks with not a great deal more than those useful 
Qualities to recommend him : He was an honest, 
quiet, careful Man, of as few Faults as Excellencies, 
and Wilks rather chose him for his second in many 
Plays, than an Actor of perhaps greater Skill that 
was not so laboriously diligent. And from this con- 
stant Assiduity, Mills, with making to himself a 
Friend in Wilks, was advanced to a larger Sallary 
than any Man-Actor had enjoy'd during my time 
on the Stage/ I have yet to offer a more happy 
Recommendation of Temperance, which a late cele- 
brated Actor was warn'd into by the mis-conduct of 
Powel. About the Year that Wilks return'd from 
Dublin, Booth, who had commenced Actor upon that 
Theatre, came over to the Company in Lincolns- Inn- 
Fields :^ He was then but an Under- graduate of 
the Buskin, and, as he told me himself, had been for 
some time too frank a Lover of the Bottle; but 
having had the Happiness to observe into what 
Contempt and Distresses Powel had plung'd himself 
by the same Vice, he was so struck with the Terror 
of his Example, that he fix'd a Resolution (which 

' John Mills, in the advertisement issued by Rich, in 1709, in 
the course of a dispute with his actors, is stated to have a salary 
of " J[,df a week for himself, and J[^x a week for his wife, for little 
or nothing." This advertisement is quoted by me in Chap. XII. 
Mills's salary was the same as Betterton's. No doubt Gibber, 
Wilks, Dogget, and Booth had ultimately larger salaries, but they, 
of course, were managers as well as actors. 

^ Booth seems to have joined the Lincoln's Inn Fields Com- 
pany in 1700. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 26 1 

from that time to the End of his Days he strictly 
observ'd) of utterly reforming it ; an uncommon Act 
of Philosophy in a young Man ! of which in his 
Fame and Fortune he afterwards enjoy 'd the Re- 
ward and Benefit. These Observations I have not 
merely thrown together as a Moralist, but to prove 
that the briskest loose Liver or intemperate Man 
(though Morality were out of the Question) can 
never arrive at the necessary Excellencies of a good 
or useful Actor. 




CHAPTER VIII. 

The Patentee of Drury-Lane wiser than his Actors. His particular 
Menagemefit. The Author continues to write Plays. Why. 
The best dramatick Poets censured by J. Collier, in his Short View 
of the Stage. // has a good Effect. The Master of the Revels^ 
from that time, cautious in his licensing new Plays. A Complaint 
against him. His Atithority founded upon Custom only. The 
late Law for fixiyig that Authority i?i a proper Person, cofisidered. 

THOUGH the Master of our Theatre had no 
Conception himself of Theatrical Merit either 
in Authors or Actors, yet his Judgment was 
govern'd by a saving Rule in both : He look'd into 
his Receipts for the Value of a Play, and from com- 
mon Fame he judg'd of his Actors. But by what- 
ever Rule he was govern'd, while he had prudently 



THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY CICBER. 263 

reserv'd to himself a Power of not paying them more 
than their Merit could get, he could not be much de- 
ceived by their being over or under-valued. In a 
Word, he had with great Skill inverted the Constitu- 
tion of the Stage, and quite changed the Channel of 
Profits arising from it ; formerly, (when there was but 
one Company) the Proprietors punctually paid the 
Actors their appointed Sallaries, and took to them- 
selves only the clear Profits : But our wiser Proprietor 
took first out of every Day's Receipts two Shillings 
in the Pound to himself; and left their Sallaries to 
be paid only as the less or greater Deficiencies of 
acting (according to his own Accounts) would per- 
mit. What seem'd most extraordinary in these 
Measures was, that at the same time he had per- 
suaded us to be contented with our Condition, upon 
his assuring us that as fast as Money would come in 
we should all be paid our Arrears : And that we 
might not have it always in our Power to say he had 
never intended to keep his Word, I remember in a 
few Years after this time he once paid us nine Days 
in one Week : This happen'd when the Funeral, or 
Grief a la Mode^ was first acted, with more than 
expected Success. Whether this well-tim'd Bounty 
was only allow'd us to save Appearances I will not 
say : But if that was his real Motive for it, it was 
too costly a frolick to be repeated, and was at least 
the only Grimace of its kind he vouchsafed us ; we 

' Steele's comedy was produced at Drury Lane in 1702. Gibber 
played Lord Plardy. 



264 THE LIFE OF 

never having received one Day more of those Arrears 
in above fifteen Years Service. 

While the Actors were in this Condition, I think 
I may very well be excused in my presuming to 
write Plays : which I was forced to do for the Sup- 
port of my encreasing Family, my precarious Income 
as an Actor being then too scanty to supply it with 
even the Necessaries of Life. 

It may be observable, too, that my Muse and my 
Spouse were equally prolifick ; that the one was sel- 
dom the Mother of a Child, but in the same Year the 
other made me the Father of a Play : I think we 
had a Dozen of each Sort between us ; of both 
which kinds, some died in their Infancy, and near an 
equal Number of each were alive when I quitted the 
Theatre — But it is no Wonder, when a Muse is only 
call'd upon by Family Duty, she should not always 
rejoice in the Fruit of her Labour. To this Neces- 
sity of writing, then, I attribute the Defects of my 
second Play, which, coming out too hastily the Year 
after my first, turn'd to very little Account. But 
having got as much by my first as I ought to have ex- 
pected from the Success of them both, I had no great 
Reason to complain : Not but, I confess, so bad was 
my second, that I do not chuse to tell you the Name 
of it; and that it might be peaceably forgotten, I 
have not given it a Place in the two Volumes of 
those I publish'd in Quarto in the Year 1721.^ And 

' The play was called " Woman's Wit; or, the Lady in Fashion." 
It was produced at Drury Lane in 1697. It must have been in 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 265 

whenever I took upon me to make some dormant 
Play of an old Author to the best of my Judgment 
fitter for the Stage, it was honestly not to be idle 
that set me to work; as a good Housewife will mend 
old Linnen when she has not better Employment : 
But when I was more warmly engag'd by a Subject 
entirely new, I only thought it a good Subject when 
it seem'd worthy of an abler Pen than my own, and 
might prove as useful to the Hearer as profitable to 
my self : Therefore, whatever any of my Productions 
might want of Skill, Learning, Wit, or Humour, or 
however unqualify'd I might be to instruct others who 
so ill govern'd my self : Yet such Plays (entirely my 
own) were not wanting, at least, in what our most 
admired Writers seem'd to neglect, and without 
which I cannot allow the most taking Play to be in- 

the early months of that year, for in his Preface Gibber says, to 
excuse its failure, that it was hurriedly written, and that " rather 
than lose a Winter" he forced himself to invent a fable. "The 
Laureat," p. 50, stupidly says that the name of the play was 
" Perolla and Isadora." The cast was : — 

Lord Lovemore Mr. Harland. 

LoNGViLLE Mr. Gibber. 

Major Rakish Mr. Penkethman. 

Jack Rakish Mr. Powel. 

Mass Johnny, Lady Manlove's Son, 

a schoolboy Mr. Dogget. 

Father Benedic Mr. Smeaton. 

Lady Manlove Mrs. Powel. 

Leonora Mrs. Knight. 

Emilia Mrs. Rogers. 

Olivia Mrs. Gibber. 

Lettice Mrs. Kent. 



266 THE LIFE OF 

trinslcally good, or to be a Work upon which a Man 
of Sense and Probity should value himself : I mean 
when they do not, as well prodesse as deledare} give 
Profit with Delight! The Utile DtilcP was, of old, 
equally the Point ; and has always been my Aim, 
however wide of the Mark I may have shot my Arrow. 
It has often given me Amazement that our best 
Authors of that time could think the Wit and Spirit 
of their Scenes could be an Excuse for making the 
Looseness of them publick. The many Instances of 
their Talents so abused are too glaring to need a closer 
Comment, and are sometimes too gross to be recited. 
If then to have avoided this Imputation, or rather 
to have had the Interest and Honour of Virtue 
always in view, can give Merit to a Play, I am con- 
tented that my Readers should think such Merit the 
All that mine have to boast of — Libertines of meer 
Wit and Pleasure may laugh at these grave Laws 
that would limit a lively Genius : But every sensible 
honest Man, conscious of their Truth and Use, will 
give these Ralliers Smile for Smile, and shew a due 
Contempt for their Merriment. 

But while our Authors took these extraordinary 
Liberties with their Wit, I remember the Ladies 
were then observ'd to be decently afraid of ventur- 
ing bare-fac'd to a new Comedy 'till they had been 

* " Aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae." 

Hor. Ars Foetica, 333. 

* " Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci." 

Hor, A}-s Poetica, 343. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 267 

assur'd they might do it without the Risque of an 
Insult to their Modesty — Or, if their Curiosity were 
too strong for their Patience, they took Care, at 
least, to save Appearances, and rarely came upon the 
first Days of Acting but in Masks, (then daily worn 
and admitted in the Pit, the side Boxes, and Gallery^) 
which Custom, however, had so many ill Conse- 
quences attending it, that it has been abolish'd these 
many Years. 

These Immoralities of the Stage had by an avow'd 
Indulgence been creeping into it ever since King 
Charles his Time ; nothing that was loose could then 
be too low for it : The London Cnckolds, the most 
rank Play that ever succeeded," was then in the 
highest Court-Favour: In this almost general Cor- 
ruption, Dryden, whose Plays were more fam'd for 
their Wit than their Chastity, led the way, which he 
fairly confesses, and endeavours to excuse in his 
Epilogue to the Pilgrim, revived in 1700 for his 

^ Pepys (i2th June, 1663) records that the Lady Mary Crom- 
well at the Theatre, " when the House began to fill, put on her 
vizard, and so kept it on all the play ; which of late is 
become a great fashion among the ladies, which hides their whole 
face." Very soon, however, ladies gave up the use of the mask, 
and "Vizard-mask" became a synonym for "Prostitute." In 
this sense it is frequently used in Dryden's Prologues and 
Epilogues. 

' Compare with Cibber's condemnation Genest's opinion of this 
play. He says (i. 365) : " If it be the province of Comedy, not to 
retail morality to a yawning pit, but to make the audience laugh, 
and to keep them in good humour, this play must be allowed to be 
one of the best comedies in the English language." 



268 THE LIFE OF 

Benefit/ in his declining Age and Fortune — The 
following Lines of it will make good my Observation. 

Perhaps the Parson ^ stj'etcJtd a Point too far, 
Wheit with our Theatres he wap-'d a War. 
He tells yoti that this very moral Age 
Receiv d the first Infection fi'o^n the Stage. 
But sure, a banish' d Court, with Lewdness fraught, 
The Seeds of open Vice returning brought. 
Thus lodgd {as vice by great Example thrives^ 
It first debaucJid the Daughters, and the Wives. 
London, a fruitful Soil, yet never bore 
So plentiful a Crop of Horns before. 
The Poets, who must live by Courts or starve, 
Were proud so good a Government to serve. 
And m,ixing with Buffoons and Pimps profane. 
Tailzied the Stage for some small snip of Gain. 
Tor they, like Harlots under Bawds prof est, 
Took all t/i ungodly Pains, and got the least. 
Thus did the tJij^ving Malady prevail, 

^ To " The Pilgrim," revived in 1700, as Gibber states, Dryden's 
" Secular Masque " was attached. Whether the revival took place 
before or after Dryden's death (ist May, 1700) is a moot point. 
See Genest, ii. 179, for an admirable account of the matter. He 
thinks it probable that the date of production was 25th March, 
1700. Gibber is scarcely accurate in stating that " The Pilgrim " 
was revived for Dryden's benefit. It seems, rather, that Vanbrugh, 
who revised the play, stipulated that, in consideration of Dryden's 
writing " The Secular Masque," and also the Prologue and Epi- 
logue, he should have the usual author's third night. The B. M. 
copy of " The Pilgrim " is dated, in an old handwriting, " Monday, 
the 5 of May." 

^ Jeremy Gollier. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 269 

The Co7irt ifs Head, the Poets but the Tail. 
The Sin was of our native Growth, 'tis true, 
The Scandal of the Sin was wholly new. 
Misses there were, but modestly conceaVd ; -• 

White-hall the naked Y (tnns first reveaVd, 
Who standing, as at Cyprus, in her Shrine, 
The Strumpet was adord with Rites divine, &c. 

This Epilogue, and the Prologue to the same Play, 
written by Dryden, I spoke myself, which not being 
usually done by the same Person, I have a mind, 
while I think of it, to let you know on what Occa- 
sion they both fell to my Share, and how other 
Actors were affected by it. 

Sir John Vanbrugh, who had given some light 
touches of his Pen to the Pilgrim to assist the 
Benefit Day of Dryden, had the Disposal of the 
Parts, and I being then as an Actor in some Favour 
with him, he read the Play first with me alone, and 
was pleased to offer me my Choice of what I might 
like best for myself in it. But as the chief Characters 
were not (according to my Taste) the most shining, 
it was no orreat Self-denial in me that I desir'd he 
would first take care of those who were more difficult 
to be pleased ; I therefore only chose for myself two 
short incidental Parts, that of the stuttering Cook^ 
and the mad Englishman. In which homely Cha- 
racters I saw more Matter for Delight than those that 

^ Genest notes (ii. 181) that in the original play the Servant in 
the 2nd act did not stutter. 



270 THE LIFE OF 

might have a better Pretence to the Amiable : And 
when the Play came to be acted I was not deceiv'd 
in my Choice. Sir John, upon my being contented 
with so little a Share in the Entertainment, gave me 
the Epilogue to make up my Mess ; which being 
written so much above the Strain of common Authors, 
I confess I was not a little pleased with. And 
Dryden, upon his hearing me repeat it to him, made 
me a farther Compliment of trusting me with the 
Prologue. This so particular Distinction was looked 
upon by the Actors as something too extraordinary. 
But no one was so impatiently ruffled at It as Wilks, 
who seldom chose soft Words when he spoke of any 
thing he did not like. The most gentle thing he 
said of it was, that he did not understand such 
Treatment ; that for his Part he look'd upon it as an 
Affront to all the rest of the Company, that there 
shou'd be but one out of the Whole judg'd fit to 
speak either a Prologue or an Epilogue ! to quiet 
him I offer'd to decline either in his Favour, or both, 
if it were equally easy to the Author : But he was 
too much concern'd to accept of an Offer that had 
been made to another in preference to himself, and 
which he seem'd to think his best way of resenting 
was to contemn. But from that time, however, he 
was resolv'd, to the best of his Power, never to let 
the first Offer of a Prologue escape him : Which 
little Ambition sometimes made him pay too dear 
for his Success : The Flatness of the many miserable 
Prologues that by this means fell to his Lot, seem'd 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 27 1 

wofully unequal to the few good ones he might have 
Reason to triumph in. 

I have given you this Fact only as a Sample of 
those frequent Rubs and Impediments I met with 
when any Step was made to my being distinguish'd 
as an Actor ; and from this Incident, too, you may 
partly see what occasion'd so many Prologues, after 
the Death of Better ton, to fall into the Hands of one 
Speaker : But it is not every Successor to a vacant 
Post that brings into it the Talents equal to those of 
a Predecessor. To speak a good Prologue well is, 
in my Opinion, one of the hardest Parts and strongest 
Proofs of sound Elocution, of which, I confess, I 
never thought that any of the several who attempted 
it shew'd themselves, by far, equal Masters to Better- 
ton. Betterton, in the Delivery of a good Prologue, 
had a. natural Gravity that gave Strength to good 
Sense, a temper'd Spirit that gave Life to Wit, and 
a dry Reserve in his Smile that threw Ridicule into 
its brightest Colours. Of these Qualities, in the 
speaking of a Prologue, Booth only had the first, but 
attain'd not to the other two : Wilks had Spirit, but 
gave too loose a Rein to it, and it was seldom he 
could speak a grave and weighty Verse harmoniously : 
His Accents were frequently too sharp and violent, 
which sometimes occasion'd his eagerly cutting off 
half the Sound of Syllables that ought to have been 
gently melted into the Melody of Metre : In Verses 
of Humour, too, he would sometimes carry the 
Mimickry farther than the hint would bear, even to 



272 THE LIFE OF 

a trifling Light, as if himself were pleased to see it 
so glittering. In the Truth of this Criticism I have 
been confirm'd by those whose Judgment I dare more 
confidently rely on than my own : Wilks had many 
Excellencies, but if we leave Prologue-Speaking out 
of the Number he will still have enough to have 
made him a valuable Actor. And I only make this 
Exception from them to caution others from imitating 
what, in his time, they might have too implicitly 
admired — But I have a Word or two more to say 
concerning the Immoralities of the Stage. Our 
Theatrical Writers were not only accus'd of Immo- 
rality, but Prophaneness ; many flagrant Instances 
of which were collected and published by a Non- 
juring Clergyman, yi?r^;;2)/ Collier, in his View of the 
Stage, &c. about the Year 1697.^ However just his 
Charofe ao^ainst the Authors that then wrote for it 
might be, I cannot but think his Sentence against 
the Stage itself is unequal ; Reformation he thinks 
too mild a Treatment for it, and is therefore for 
laying his Ax to the Root of it : If this were to be a 
Rule of Judgment for Offences of the same Nature, 

^ Collier's famous work, which was entitled "A Short View of 
the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage : together 
with the sense of Antiquity upon this Argument," was published 
in 1698. Collier was a Nonjuring clergyman. He was born on 
23rd September, 1650, and died in 1726, The circumstance to 
which Gibber alludes in the second paragraph from the present, 
was Collier's attending to the scaffold Sir John Friend and Sir 
William Perkins, who were executed for complicity in plots 
against King WilHam in 1696. 




WILLIAM CONGREVE 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 273 

what might become of the Pulpit, where many a 
seditious and corrupted Teacher has been known to 
cover the most pernicious Doctrine with the Masque 
of Religion ? This puts me in mind of what the 
notedyi?. Haiiis} the Comedian, a Fellow of a wicked 
Wit, said upon this Occasion ; who being ask'd what 
could transport Mr. Collier into so blind a Zeal for a 
general Suppression of the Stage, when only some 
particular Authors had abus'd it .-^ Whereas the 
Stage, he could not but know, was generally allow'd, 
when rightly conducted, to be a delightful Method 
of mending our Morals ? " For that Reason, reply'd 
" Hains : Collier is by Profession a Moral-mender 
" himself, and two of Trade, you know, can never 
" agree." ^ 

^ The facetious Joe Haines was an actor of great popularity, and 
seems to have excelled in the delivery of Prologues and Epilogues, 
especially of those written by himself. He was on the stage from 
about 1672 to 1700 or 1701, in which latter year (on the 4th of 
April) he died. He was the original Sparkish in Wycherley's 
" Country Wife," Lord Plausible in the same author's " Plain 
Dealer," and Tom Errand in Farquhar's " Constant Couple." 
Davies ("Dram. Misc.," iii. 284) tells, on Quin's authority, an 
anecdote of Haines's pretended conversion to Romanism during 
James the Second's reign. He declared that the Virgin Mary 
appeared to him in a vision. " Lord Sunderland sent for Joe, 
and asked him about the truth of his conversion, and whether he 
had really seen the Virgin ? — Yes, my Lord, I assure you it is a 
fact. — How was it, pray? — Why, as I was lying in my bed, the 
Virgin appeared to me, and said. Arise, Joe ! — You lie, you rogue, 
said the Earl ; for, if it had really been the Virgin herself, she 
would have said Joseph, if it had been only out of respect to her 
husband." For an account of Haines, see also Anthony Aston. 

^ "The Laurcat" (p. 53) states that soon after the publication 

S 



274 THE LIFE OF 

The Authors of the old Batchelor and of the 
Relapse were those whom Collier most labour'd to 
convict of Immorahty ; to which they severally pub- 
lish'd their Reply ; the first seem'd too much hurt 
to be able to defend himself, and the other felt him 
so little that his Wit only laugh'd at his Lashes/ 

My first Play of the Fool in Fashion, too, being 
then in a Course of Success ; perhaps for that Reason 
only, this severe Author thought himself oblig'd to 
attack it ; in which I hope he has shewn more Zeal 
than Justice, his greatest Charge against it is, that it 
sometimes uses the Word Faith ! as an Oath, in the 
Dialogue : But if Faith may as well signify our given 
Word or Credit as our religious Belief, why might 
not his Charity have taken it in the less criminal 
Sense ? Nevertheless, Mr. Colliers Book was upon 
the whole thought so laudable a Work, that King 

of Collier's book, informers were placed in different parts of the 
theatres, on whose information several players were charged with 
uttering immoral words. Queen Anne, however, satisfied that the 
informers were not actuated by zeal for morality, stopped the 
inquisition. These informers were paid by the Society for the 
Reformation of Manners. 

^ Congreve's answer to Collier was entitled " Amendments of 
Mr. Collier's false and imperfect Citations, &c. from the Old 
Batchelour, Double Dealer, Love for Love, Mourning Bride. By 
the Author of those Plays." Vanbrugh called his reply, " A Short 
Vindication of the Relapse and the Provok'd Wife, from Immo- 
rality and Prophaneness. By the Author." Davies says, regarding 
Congreve (" Dram. Misc.,"iii. 401) : "Congreve's pride was hurt by 
Collier's attack on plays which all the world had admired and 
commended ; and no hypocrite showed more rancour and resent- 
ment, when unmasked, than this author, so greatly celebrated for 
sweetness of temper and elegance of manners." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 275 

William, soon after it was publish'd, granted him a 
Nolo Prosequi when he stood answerable to the Law 
for his having absolved two Criminals just before 
they were executed for High Treason. And it must 
be farther granted that his calling our Dramatick 
Writers to this strict Account had a very wholesome 
Effect upon those who writ after this time. They 
were now a great deal more upon their guard; In- 
decencies were no longer Wit ; and by Degrees the 
fair Sex came again to fill the Boxes on the first Day 
of a new Comedy, without Fear or Censure. But 
the Master of the Revels/ who then licens'd all Plays 
for the Stage, assisted this Reformation with a more 
zealous Severity than ever. He would strike out 
whole Scenes of a vicious or immoral Character, tho' 
it were visibly shewn to be reform'd or punish'd ; a 
severe Instance of this kind falling upon my self may 
be an Excuse for my relating it : When Richard the 
Third (as I alter'd it from ShakespearY came from 
his Hands to the Stage, he expung'd the whole first 
Act without sparing a Line of it. This extraordinary 
Stroke of a Sic volo occasion'd my applying to him 
for the small Indulgence of a Speech or two, that 
the other four Acts might limp on with a little less 
Absurdity ! no ! he had not leisure to consider what 
might be separately inoffensive. He had an Objec- 

^ Charles Killigrew, who died in 1725, having held the office of 
Master of the Revels for over forty years. 

^ Produced at Drury Lane in 1700. For some account of 
Gibber's playing of Richard, see ante, pp. 139, 140. 



276 THE LIFE OF 

tion to the whole Act, and the Reason he gave for it 
was, that the Distresses of King Henry the Sixth, 
who is kill'd by Richard in the first Act, would put 
weak People too much in mind of King James then 
living in France; a notable Proof of his Zeal for the 
Government!^ Those who have read either the 
Play or the History, I dare say will think he strain'd 
hard for the Parallel. In a Word, we were forc'd, 
for some few Years, to let the Play take its Fate 
with only four Acts divided into five ; by the Loss of 
so considerable a Limb, may one not modestly sup- 
pose it was robbed of at least a fifth Part of that 
Favour it afterwards met with ? For tho' this first 
Act was at last recovered, and made the Play whole 
again, yet the Relief came too late to repay me for 
the Pains I had taken in it. Nor did I ever hear 
that this zealous Severity of the Master of the Revels 
was afterwards thought justifiable. But my good 
Fortune, in Process of time, gave me an Opportunity 
to talk with my Oppressor in my Turn. 

The Patent granted by his Majesty King George 
the First to Sir Richard Steele and his Assigns,^ of 
which I was one, made us sole Judges of what Plays 

^ Chalmers ("Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare 
Papers," page 535) comments unfavourably on Gibber's method 
of stating this fact, saying, " Well might Pope cry out, modest 
Gibber !" But Ghalmers is unjust to Golley, who is not express- 
ing his own opinion of his play's importance, but merely reporting 
the opinion of Killigrew. 

^ Steele's name first appears in a License granted i8th October, 
1 7 14. His Patent was dated 19th January, 17 15. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 277 

might be proper for the Stage, without submitting 
them to the Approbation or License of any other 
particular Person. Notwithstanding which, the 
Master of the Revels demanded his Fee of Forty- 
Shillings upon our acting a new One, tho' we had 
spared him the Trouble of perusing it. This occa- 
sion'd my being deputed to him to enquire into the 
Riofht of his Demand, and to make an amicable End 
of our Dispute.^ I confess I did not dislike the 
Office; and told him, according to my Instructions, 
That I came not to defend even our own Right in 
prejudice to his ; that if our Patent had inadver- 
tendy superseded the Grant of any former Power or 
Warrant whereon he might ground his Pretensions, 
we would not insist upon our Broad Seal, but would 
readily answer his Demands upon sight of such his 
Warrant, any thing in our Patent to the contrary not- 
withstanding. This I had reason to think he could 
not do ; and when I found he made no direct Reply 
to my Question, I repeated it with greater Civilities 

1 Chalmers ("Apology for the Believers," page 536) says : "The 
patentees sent Colley Gibber, as envoy-extraordinary, to negotiate 
an amicable settlement with the Sovereign of the Revels. It is 
amusing to hear, how this flippant negotiator explained his own 
pretensions, and attempted to invalidate the right of his oppo- 
nent; as if a subsequent charter, under the great seal, could 
supersede a preceding grant under the same authority. Charles 
Killigrew, who was now sixty-five years of age, seems to have been 
oppressed by the insolent civihty of Colley Cibber." But this is 
an undeserved hit at Cibber, who had suffered the grossest injus- 
tice at Killigrew's hands regarding the licensing of "Richard III." 
See ante, p. 275. The dispute regarding fees must have occurred 
about 1 7 15. 



2 78 THE LIFE OF 

and Offers of Compliance, 'till I was forc'd in the 
end to conclude with telling him, That as his Pre- 
tensions were not back'd with any visible Instrument 
of Right, and as his strongest Plea was Custom, we 
could not so far extend our Complaisance as to con- 
tinue his Fees upon so slender a Claim to them : 
And from that Time neither our Plays or his Fees 
gave either of us any farther trouble. In this Nego- 
tiation I am the bolder to think Justice was on our 
Side, because the Law lately pass'd,^ by which the 

' The Licensing Act of 1737. This Act was passed by Sir 
Robert Walpole's government, and gave to the Lord Chamberlain 
the power to prohibit a piece from being acted at all, by making 
it necessary to have every play hcensed. This power, however, 
had practically been exercised by the Chamberlain before, as in 
the case of Gay's " Polly," which Cibber has already mentioned. 
The immediate cause of this Act of 1737 was a piece called "The 
Golden Rump," which was so full of scurrility against the powers 
that were, that Giffard, the manager to whom it was submitted, car- 
ried it to Walpole. In spite of the opposition of Lord Chesterfield, 
who delivered a famous speech against it, the Bill was passed, 
2ist June, 1737. The "Biographia Dramatica" hints plainly that 
" The Golden Rump " was written at Walpole's instigation to 
afford an excuse for the Act. Bellchambers has the following 
note on this passage : — 

"The Abbe' Le Blanc,* who was in England at the time this 
law passed, has the following remarks upon it in his correspon- 
dence : — 

" ' This act occasioned an universal murmur in the nation, and 
was openly complained of in the public papers : in all the coffee- 
houses of London it was treated as an unjust law, and manifestly 
contrary to the liberties of the people of England. When winter 
came, and the play-houses were opened, that of Covent-garden 

* Mr. Garrick, when in Paris, refused to meet this writer, on account of the 
irreverence with which he had treated Shakspeare. 






MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 279 

Power of Licensing Plays, (2fc. is given to a proper 
Person, is a strong Presumption that no Law had 
ever given that Power to any such Person before. 

My having mentioned this Law, which so imme- 
diately affected the Stage, incHnes me to throw out a 

began with three new pieces, which had been approved of by the 
Lord Chamberlain. There was a crowd of spectators present at 
the first, and among the number myself. The best play in the 
world would not have succeeded the first night.* There was a 
resolution to damn whatever might appear, the word /ii'ss not 
being sufficiently expressive for the English. They always say, to 
damn a piece, to damn an author, &c. and, in reality, the word is 
not too strong to express the manner in which they receive a play 
which does not please them. The farce in question was damned 
indeed, without the least compassion : nor was that all, for the 
actors were driven off the stage, and happy was it for the author 
that he did not fall into the hands of this furious assembly. 

" ' As you are unacquainted with the customs of this country, you 
cannot easily devise who were the authors of all this disturbance. 
Perhaps you may think they were schoolboys, apprentices, clerks, 
or mechanics. No, sir, they were men of a very grave and genteel 
profession ; they were lawyers, and please you ; a body of gentle- 
men, perhaps less honoured, but certainly more feared here than 
they are in France. Most of them live in colleges,t where, con- 
versing always with one another, they mutually preserve a spirit of 
independency through the body, and with great ease form cabals. 
These gentlemen, in the stage entertainments of London, behave 
much like our footboys, in those at a fair. With us, your party- 
coloured gentry are the most noisy ; but here, men of the law have 
all the sway, if I may be permitted to call so those pretended pro- 
fessors of it, who are rather the organs of chicanery, than the inter- 

* The action was interrupted almost as soon as begun, in presence of a 
numerous assembly, by a cabal who had resolved to overthrow the first effect 
of this act of parliament, though it had been thought necessary for the regula- 
tion of the stage. 

+ Called here Inns of Court, as the two Temples, Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, 
Doctor's Commons, &c. 



28o THE LIFE OF 

few Observations upon it : But I must first lead 
you gradually thro' the Facts and natural Causes 
that made such a Law necessary. 

Although it had been taken for granted, from Time 

preters of justice. At Paris the cabals of the pit are only among 
young fellows, whose years may excuse their folly, or persons of 
the meanest education and stamp ; here they are the fruit of deli- 
berations in a very grave body of people, who are not less for- 
midable to the minister in place, than to the theatrical writers. 

" ' The players were not dismayed, but soon after stuck up bills 
for another new piece : there was the same crowding at Covent- 
garden, to which I again contributed. I was sure, at least, that if 
the piece advertised was not performed, I should have the pleasure 
of beholding some very extraordinary scene acted in the pit. 

" ' Half an hour before the play was to begin, the spectators gave 
notice of their dispositions by frightful hisses and outcries, equal, 
perhaps, to what were ever heard at a Roman amphitheatre. I 
could not have known, but by my eyes only, that I was among an 
assembly of beings who thought themselves to be reasonable. The 
author, who had foreseen this fury of the pit, took care to be 
armed against it. He knew what people he had to deal with, and, 
to make them easy, put in his prologue double the usual dose of 
incense that is offered to their vanity ; for there is an established 
tax of this kind, from which no author is suffered to dispense 
himself. This author's wise precaution succeeded, and the men 
that were before so redoubtable grew calm ; the charms of flattery, 
more strong than those of music, deprived them of all their fierce- 
ness. 

" ' You see, sir, that the pit is the same in all countries : it loves 
to be flattered, under the more genteel name of being compli- 
mented. If a man has tolerable address at panegyric, they swallow 
it greedily, and are easily quelled and intoxicated by the draught. 
Every one in particular thinks he merits the praise that is given to 
the whole in general ; the illusion operates, and the prologue is 
good, only because it is artfully directed. Every one saves his own 
blush by the authority of the multitude he makes a part of, which 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 28 1 

immemorial, that no Company of Comedians could 
act Plays, &c. without the Royal License or Protec- 
tion of some legal Authority, a Theatre was, not- 
withstanding, erected in Goodmaji s- Fields about 

is, perhaps, the only circumstance in which a man can think 
himself not obliged to be modest. 

"'The author having, by flattery, begun to tame this wild 
audience, proceeded entirely to reconcile it by the first scene of 
his performance. Two actors came in, one dressed in the English 
manner very decently, and the other with black eyebrows, a ribbon 
of an ell long under his chin, a bag-peruke immoderately pow- 
dered, and his nose all bedaubed with snuff. What Englishman 
could not know a Frenchman by this ridiculous picture ! The 
common people of London think we are indeed such sort of folks, 
and of their own accord, add to our real follies all that their 
authors are pleased to give us. But when it was found, that the 
man thus equipped, being also laced down every seam of his coat, 
was nothing but a cook, the spectators were equally charmed and 
surprised. The author had taken care to make him speak all the 
impertinencies he could devise, and for that reason, all the imper- 
tinencies of his farce were excused, and the merit of it immediately 
decided. There was a long criticism upon our manners, our 
customs, and above all, upon our cookery. The excellence and 
virtues of English beef were cried up, and the author maintained, 
that it was owing to the qualities of its juice, that the English were 
so courageous, and had such a solidity of understanding, which 
raised them above all the nations in Europe : he preferred the 
noble old English pudding beyond all the finest ragouts that were 
ever invented by the greatest geniuses that France has produced ; 
and all these ingenious strokes were loudly clapped by the audience. 

" ' The pit, biassed by the abuse that was thrown on the French, 
forgot that they came to damn the play, and maintain the ancient 
liberty of the stage. They were friends with the players, and even 
with the court itself, and contented themselves with the privilege 
left them, of lashing our nation as much as they pleased, in the 
room of laughing at the expense of the minister. The Ucense of 



282 THE LIFE OF 

seven Years ago/ where Plays, without any such 
License, were acted for some time unmolested and 
with Impunity. After a Year or two, this Playhouse 
was thought a N usance too near the City : Upon 
which the Lord-Mayor and Aldermen petltion'd the 
Crown to suppress it : What Steps were taken in 
favour of that Petition I know not, but common 
Fame seem'd to allow, from what had or had not 
been done In it, that acting Plays in the said Theatre 
was not evidently unlawful.^ However, this Ques- 
tion of Acting without a License a little time after 
came to a nearer Decision In Westminster- Hall ; the 
Occasion of bringing it thither was this : It hap- 
pened that the Purchasers of the Patent, to whom 

authors did not seem to be too much restrained, since the court 
did not hinder them from saying all the ill they could of the 
French. 

" ' Intractable as the populace appear in this country, those who 
know how to take hold of their foibles, may easily carry their 
point. Thus is the liberty of the stage reduced to just bounds, 
and yet the English pit makes no farther attempt to oppose the 
new regulation. The law is executed without the least trouble, all 
the plays since having been quietly heard, and either succeeded, 
or not, according to their merit.' " 

See article in Mr. Archer's "About the Theatre," p. loi, and 
Parliamentary Reports, 1832 and 1866. 

^ The theatre in Goodman's Fields was opened in October, 
1729, by Thomas Odell, who was afterwards Deputy Licenser 
under the 1737 Act. Odell, having no theatrical experience, 
entrusted the management to Henry Giffard. Odell's theatre 
seems to have been in Leman Street. 

^ I can find no hint that plays were ever stopped at Odell's 
theatre. There is a pamphlet, published in 1730, with the follow- 
ing title: "A Letter to the Right Honourable Sir Richard 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 283 

Mr. Booth and Myself had sold our Shares/ were at 
variance with the Comedians that were then left to 
their Government, and the Variance ended in the 
chief of those Comedians deserting and setting up 
for themselves in the little House in the Hay- 
Market, in 1733, by which Desertion the Patentees 
were very much distressed and considerable Losers. 
Their Affairs being in this desperate Condition, they 
were advis'd to put the Act of the Twelfth of Queen 
Anne against Vagabonds in force against these 
Deserters, then acting in the Hay-Market without 
License. Accordingly, one of their chief Performers^ 
was taken from the Stage by a Justice of Peace 
his Warrant, and committed to Bridewell as one 
within the Penalty of the said Act. When the 
Legality of this Commitment was disputed in West- 
minster-Hall, by all I could observe from the learned 
Pleadings on both Sides (for I had the Curiosity to 

Brocas, Lord Mayor of London. By a Citizen," which demands 
the closing of the theatre, but I do not suppose any practical 
result followed. In 1733 an attempt by the Patentees of Drury 
Lane and Covent Garden to silence Giffard's Company, then 
playing at his new theatre in Goodman's Fields, was unsuccessful. 
This theatre was in Aylifife Street. 

^ Half of Booth's share of the Patent was purchased by High- 
more, who also bought the whole of Gibber's share. Giffard was 
the purchaser of the remainder of Booth's share. 

^ This was John Harper. Davies (" Life of Garrick," i. 40) 
says that " The reason of the Patentees fixing on Harper was in 
consequence of his natural timidity." His trial was on the 20th 
November, 1733. Harper was a low comedian of some ability, 
but of no great note. 



284 THE LIFE OF 

hear them) it did not appear to me that the Come- 
dian so committed was within the Description of the 
said Act, he being a Housekeeper and having a 
Vote for the Westminster Members of ParHament, 
He was discharged accordingly, and conducted 
through the Hall with the Congratulations of the 
Crowds that attended and wish'd well to his Cause. 

The Issue of this Trial threw me at that time into 
a very odd Reflexion, viz. That if acting Plays 
without License did not make the Performers Vaga- 
bonds unless they wandered from their Habitations 
so to do, how particular was the Case of Us three 
late Menaging Actors at the Theatre- Royal, who in 
twenty Years before had paid upon an Averidge at 
least Twenty Thousand Pounds to be protected (as 
Actors) from a Law that has not since appeared to 
be against us. Now, whether we might certainly 
have acted without any License at all I shall not 
pretend to determine ; but this I have of my own 
Knowledge to say, That in Queen Amines Reign the 
Stage was in such Confusion, and its Affairs in such 
Distress, that Sir John Vanbrugk and Mr. Congreve, 
after they had held it about one Year, threw up the 
Menagement of it as an unprofitable Post, after 
which a License for Acting was not thought worth 
any Gentleman's asking for, and almost seem'd to go 
a begging, 'till some time after, by the Care, Appli- 
cation, and Industry of three Actors, it became so 
prosperous, and the Profits so considerable, that it 
created a new Place, and a Sine-cure of a Thousand 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 285 

Pounds a Year/ which the Labour of those Actors 
constantly paid to such Persons as had from time to 
time Merit or Interest enough to get their Names in- 
serted as Fourth Menagers in a License with them 
for acting Plays, 6fc. a Preferment that many a Sir 
Francis Wronghead would have jump'd at.^ But to 
go on with my Story. This Endeavour of the 
Patentees to suppress the Comedians acting in the 
Hay- Market proving ineffectual, and no Hopes of a 
Reunion then appearing, the Remains of the Com- 
pany left in Drury-Lane were reduced to a very low 
Condition. At this time a third Purchaser, Charles 
Fleetwood, Esq., stept in ; who judging the best Time 
to buy was when the Stock was at the lowest Price, 
struck up a Bargain at once for Five Parts in Six of 
the Patent ; ^ and, at the same time, gave the revolted 
Comedians their own Terms to return and come 
under his Government in Drury-Lane, where they 
now continue to act at very ample Sallaries, as I am 
informed, in 1 738."* But (as I have observ'd) the late 

^ Gibber again alludes to this in Chap. XIII. 

^ Sir Francis Wronghead is a character in " The Provoked Hus- 
band," a country squire who comes to London to seek a place at 
Court. In Act iv. Sir Francis relates his interview with a certain 
great man : " Sir Francis, says my lord, pray what sort of a place 
may you ha' turned your thoughts upon ? My lord, says I, 
beggars must not be chusers ; but ony place, says I, about a thou- 
sand a-year, will be well enough to be doing with, till something 
better falls in — for I thowght it would not look well to stond hag- 
gling with him at first." 

' Giffard seems to have retained his sixth part. 

* Some account of the entire dispute between Highmorc and 
his actors will be found in my Supplement to this book. 



286 THE LIFE OF 

Cause of the prosecuted Comedian having gone so 
strongly in his Favour, and the House in Goodmans- 
Fields, too, continuing to act with as little Authority- 
unmolested ; these so tolerated Companies gave En- 
couragement to a broken Wit to collect a fourth 
Company, who for some time acted Plays in the 
Hay-Market, which House the united Drury-Lane 
Comedians had lately quitted : This enterprising 
Person, I say (whom I do not chuse to name,^ unless 
it could be to his Advantage, or that it were of Im- 
portance) had Sense enough to know that the best 
Plays with bad Actors would turn but to a very 
poor Account ; and therefore found it necessary to 
give the Publick some Pieces of an extraordinary 
Kind, the Poetry of which he conceiv'd ought to be 
so strong that the greatest Dunce of an Actor could 
not spoil it : He knew, too, that as he was in haste to 

^ This " broken Wit " was Henry Fielding, between whom and 
Gibber there was war to the knife, Fielding taking every oppor- 
tunity of mocking at Colley and attacking his works. 

Mr. Austin Dobson, in his " Fielding," page 66, writes : " When 
the Champion was rather more than a year old, Colley Gibber 
published his famous Apology. To the attacks made upon him 
by Fielding at different times he had hitherto printed no reply — 
perhaps he had no opportunity of doing so. But in his eighth 
chapter, when speaking of the causes which led to the Licensing 
Act, he takes occasion to refer to his assailant in terms which 
Fielding must have found exceedingly galling. He carefully ab- 
stained from mentioning his name, on the ground that it could do 
him no good, and was of no importance ; but he described him as 
' a broken Wit,' " &c. 

Mr. Dobson, on page 69, gives his approval to the theory that 
" Fielding had openly expressed resentment at being described by 
Gibber as ' a broken wit,' without being mentioned by name." 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 287 

get Money, It would take up less time to be intrepidly 
abusive than decently entertaining ; that to draw the 
Mob after him he must rake the Channel ^ and pelt 
their Superiors ; that, to shew himself somebody, he 
must come up to JuvenaVs Advice and stand the 
Consequence : 

Aude aliquid brevibus Gyaris, <2f carcere dignum 
Si vis esse aliquis Juv. Sat. I.'^ 

Such, then, was the mettlesome Modesty he set out 
with ; upon this Principle he produc'd several frank 
and free Farces that seem'd to knock all Distinctions 
of Mankind on the Head : Religion, Laws, Govern- 
ment, Priests, Judges, and Ministers, were all laid 
flat at the Feet of this Herculean Satyrist ! This 
Drawcansir in Wit,' that spared neither Friend nor 
Foe ! who to make his Poetical Fame immortal, like 
another Erostratus, set Fire to his Stage by writing 
up to an Act of Parliament to demolish it.^ I shall 

^ The use of "channel," meaning "gutter," is obsolete in Eng- 
land ; but I am sure that I have heard it used in that sense 
in Scotland. Shakespeare in " King Henry the Sixth," third part, 
act ii. sc. 2, has, 

" As if a channel should be called the sea." 

And in Marlowe's " Edward the Second," act i. sc. i, occur the 
lines : — 

" Throw off his golden mitre, rend his stole, 
And in the channel christen him anew." 
* Juvenal, i, 73. 

' Mr. Dobson ("Fielding," page 67) says: "He [Gibber] 
called him, either in allusion to his stature, or his pseudonym in 
the C/iajiipion, a 'Herculean Satyrist,' a ' Drmacansir in Wit.'" 
■* Fielding's political satires, in such pieces as " Pascjuin " and 



288 THE LIFE OF 

not give the particular Strokes of his Ingenuity a 
Chance to be remembred by reciting them ; it may 
be enough to say, in general Terms, they were so 
openly flagrant, that the Wisdom of the Legislature 
thought it high time to take a proper Notice of 
them/ 

Having now shewn by what means there came 
to be four Theatres, besides a fifth for Operas, in 
London, all open at the same time, and that while 
they were so numerous it was evident some of them 
must have starv'd unless they fed upon the Trash 
and Filth of Buffbonry and Licentiousness; I now 
come, as I promis'd, to speak of that necessary Law 
which has reduced their Number and prevents the 
Repetition of such Abuses in those that remain open 
for the Publick Recreation. 

" The Historical Register for 1736," contributed largely to the pass- 
ing of the Act of 1737, although "The Golden Rump" was the 
ostensible cause. 

^ Fielding, in the "Champion " for Tuesday, April 22nd, 1740, 
says of Gibber's refusal to quote from " Pasquin " — ■'■'■ the good 
Parent seems to imagine that he hath produced, as well as my 
Lord Clarendon, a Kr^jua iq dal ; for he refuses to quote anything 
out oi Pasqiim, lest he should ^zW it a chance of being reme7Tibered" 

Mr. Dobson (" Fielding," page 69) says Fielding "never seems 
to have wholly forgotten his animosity to the actor, to whom there 
are frequent references va Joseph Andrews ; and, as late as 1749, 
he is still found harping on ' the withered laurel ' in a letter to 
Lyttelton. Even in his last work, the Voyage to Lisbon, Gibber's 
name is mentioned. The origin of this protracted feud is obscure ; 
but, apart from want of sympathy, it must probably be sought for 
in some early misunderstanding between the two in their capaci- 
ties of manager and author." 




CHARLOTTE CHARKE, 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 289 

While this Law was in Debate a lively Spirit and 
uncommon Eloquence was employ'd against it.^ It 
was urg'd That 07ie of the greatest Goods we can 
enjoy is Liberty. (This we may grant to be an incon- 
testable Truth, without its being the least Objection to 
this Law.) It was said, too, That to bring the Stage 
under the Restraint of a Licenser was leading the way 
to an Attack upon the Liberty of the Press. This 
amounts but to a Jealousy at best, which I hope and 
believe all honest Englishmen have as much Reason 
to think a groundless, as to fear it is a just Jealousy: 
For the Stage and the Press, I shall endeavour to 
shew, are very different Weapons to wound with. If 
a great Man could be no more injured by being per- 
sonally ridicul'd or made contemptible in a Play, 
than by the same Matter only printed and read against 
him in a Pamphlet or the strongest Verse ; then, 
indeed, the Stage and the Press might pretend to be 
upon an equal Foot of Liberty : But when the wide 
Difference between these two Liberties comes to be 
explain'd and consider'd, I dare say we shall find 
the Injuries from one capable of being ten times 
more severe and formidable than from the other : 
Let us see, at least, if the Case will not be vastly 
alter'd. Read what Mr. Collier in his Defence oi\\\s 
Short View of the Stage, &.c. Page 25, says to this 
Point ; he sets this Difference in a clear Light. These 
are his Words : 

» By Lord Chcsterfiekl. 
T 



290 THE LIFE OF 

" The Satyr of a Comediaii and another Poet, have 
" a different effect upon Reputation. A Character 
" of Disadvantage upon the Stage, makes a stronger 
" Impression than elsewhere. Reading is but Hear- 
*' Ing at the second Hand ; Now Hearing at the best, 
** is a more languid Conveyance than Sight. For as 
** Ho7'ace observes, 

Segnius irritant aninios demissa per aure7n, 
Qtiam qucB sunt oculis subjeda fidelibus} 

" The Eye is much more affecting, and strikes 
" deeper into the Memory than the Ear. Besides, 
" Upon the Stage both the Senses are In Conjunc- 
" tlon. The Life of the Action fortifies the Object, 
" and awakens the Mind to take hold of it. Thus 
" a dramatick Abuse Is rivetted in the Audience, a 
" Jest is Improv'd into an Argument, and Rallying 
" grows up into Reason': Thus a Character of Scandal 
" becomes almost indelible, a Man goes for a Block- 
" head upon Content ; and he that's made a Fool In 
" a Play, is often made one for his Life-time. 'Tis 
** true he passes for such only among the prejudiced 
" and unthinking ; but these are no inconsiderable 
** Division of Mankind. For these Reasons, I humbly 
" conceive the Stage stands in need of a great deal 
" of Discipline and Restraint : To give them an un- 
*' limited Range, Is in effect to make them Masters 
" of all Moral Distinctions, and to lay Honour and 
" Religion at their Mercy. To shew Greatness rldi- 

^ Horace, Ars Foetica, 180. 



MR, COLLEY GIBBER. 29 1 

" culous, is the way to lose the use, and abate the 
" vakie of the QuaHty. Things made Httle in jest, 
" will soon be so in earnest : for Laughing and 
" Esteem, are seldom bestow'd on the same Object." 
If this was Truth and Reason (as sure it was) 
forty Years ago, will it not carry the same Conviction 
with it to these Days, when there came to be a much 
stronger Call for a Reformation of the Stage, than 
when this Author wrote against it, or perhaps than 
was ever known since the E^iglish Stage had a Being ? 
And now let us ask another Question ! Does not 
the general Opinion of Mankind suppose that the 
Honour and Reputation of a Minister is, or ought 
to be, as dear to him as his Life .'* Yet when the 
Law, in Queen Annes Time, had made even an 
unsuccessful Attempt upon the Life of a Minister 
capital, could any Reason be found that the Fame 
and Honour of his Character should not be under 
equal Protection .^ Was the Wound that Guiscard 
gave to the late Lord Oxford, when a Minister,^ a 
greater Injury than the Theatrical Insult which was 
offer'd to a later Minister, in a more valuable Part, 
his Character } Was it not as high time, then, to 
take this dangerous Weapon of mimical Insolence 
and Defamation out of the Hands of a mad Poet, 
as to wrest the Knife from the lifted Hand of a 
Murderer ? And is not that Law of a milder Nature 
which prevents a Crime, than that which punishes it 
after it is committed ? May not one think it amazing 
* Guiscard's attack on Harley occurred in 171 1. 



292 THE LIFE OF 

that the Liberty of defaming lawful Power and 
Dignity should have been so eloquently contended 
for ? or especially that this Liberty ought to triumph 
in a Theatre, where the most able, the most innocent, 
and most upright Person must himself be, while the 
Wound is given, defenceless ? How long must a 
Man so injur'd lie bleeding before the Pain and 
Anguish of his Fame (if it suffers wrongfully) can 
be dispell'd ? or say he had deserv'd Reproof and 
publick Accusation, yet the Weight and Greatness 
of his Office never can deserve it from a publick 
Stage, where the lowest Malice by sawcy Parallels 
and abusive Inuendoes may do every thing but name 
him : But alas ! Liberty is so tender, so chaste a 
Virgin, that it seems not to suffer her to do irreparable 
Injuries with Impunity is a Violation of her ! It 
cannot sure be a Principle of Liberty that would 
turn the Stage into a Court of Enquiry, that would 
let the partial Applauses of a vulgar Audience give 
Sentence upon the Conduct of Authority, and put 
Impeachments into the Mouth of a Harlequin? 
Will not every impartial Man think that Malice, 
Envy, Faction, and Mis-rule, might have too much 
Advantage over lawful Power, if the Range of such 
a Stage- Liberty were unlimited and insisted on to 
be enroll'd among the glorious Rights of an English 
Subject ? 

I remember much such another ancient Liberty, 
which many of the good People of England were 
once extremely fond of; I mean that of throwing 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 293 

Squibs and Crackers at all Spectators without Dis- 
tinction upon a Lord-Mayor's Day ; but about forty 
Years ago a certain Nobleman happening to have 
one of his Eyes burnt out by this mischievous Merri- 
ment, it occasion'd a penal Law to prevent those 
Sorts of Jests from being laugh'd at for the future : 
Yet I have never heard that the most zealous Patriot 
ever thought such a Law was the least Restraint 
upon our Liberty. 

If I am ask'd why I am so voluntary a Champion 
for the Honour of this Law that has limited the 
Number of Play- Houses, and which now can no 
longer concern me as a Professor of the Stage ? I 
reply, that it being a Law so nearly relating to the 
Theatre, it seems not at all foreign to my History to 
have taken notice of it ; and as I have farther pro- 
mised to give the Publick a true Portrait of my 
Mind, I ought fairly to let them see how far I am, 
or am not, a Blockhead, when I pretend to talk of 
serious Matters that may be judg'd so far above my 
Capacity : Nor will it in the least discompose me 
whether my Observations are contemn'd or applauded. 
A Blockhead is not always an unhappy Fellow, and 
if the World will not flatter us, we can flatter our- 
selves ; perhaps, too, it will be as difficult to convince 
us we are in the wrong, as that you wiser Gentlemen 
are one Tittle the better for your Knowledge. It is 
yet a Question with me whether we weak Heads have 
not as much Pleasure, too, in giving our shallow 
Reason a little Exercise, as those clearer Brains have 



294 '^^^^ L^^^ ^^ 

that are allow'd to dive into the deepest Doubts and 
Mysteries ; to reflect or form a Judgment upon re- 
markable things />asl is as deHghtful to me as it is to 
the gravest Politician to penetrate into what is present, 
or to enter into Speculations upon what is, or is not 
likely to come. Why are Histories written, if all 
Men are not to judge of them ? Therefore, if my 
Reader has no more to do than I have, I have a 
Chance for his being as willing to have a little more 
upon the same Subject as I am to give it him. 

When direct Arguments against this Bill were 
found too weak, Recourse was had to dissuasive 
ones : It was said that this Restraint up07i the Stage 
would not remedy the Evil complain d of: That a 
Play refusd to be licensed would still be printed, with 
double Advantage, when it should be insinuated that it 
was refused for some Strokes of Wit, &c. and would 
be mo7'e likely then to have its Effect among the People. 
However natural this Consequence may seem, I 
doubt it will be very difficult to give a printed Satyr 
or Libel half the Force or Credit of an acted one. 
The most artful or notorious Lye or strain'd Allusion 
that ever slander'd a great Man, may be read by 
some People with a Smile of Contempt, or, at worst, 
it can impose but on one Person at once : but when 
the Words of the same plausible Stuff shall be re- 
peated on a Theatre, the Wit of it among a Crowd 
of Hearers is liable to be over-valued, and may unite 
and warm a whole Body of the Malicious or Ignorant 
into a Plaudit ; nay, the partial Claps of only twenty 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 295 

ill-minded Persons among several hundreds of silent 
Hearers shall, and often have been, mistaken for a 
general Approbation, and frequently draw into their 
Party the Indifferent or Inapprehensive, who rather 
than be thought not to understand the Conceit, will 
laugh with the Laughers and join in the Triumph ! 
But alas ! the quiet Reader of the same ingenious 
Matter can only like for himself; and the Poison has 
a much slower Operation upon the Body of a People 
when it is so retail'd out, than when sold to a full 
Audience by wholesale. The single Reader, too, 
may happen to be a sensible or unprejudiced Person ; 
and then the merry Dose, meeting with the Antidote 
of a sound Judgment, perhaps may have no Operation 
at all : With such a one the Wit of the most ingenious 
Satyr will only by its intrinsick Truth or Value 
gain upon his Approbation ; or if it be worth an 
Answer, a printed Falshood may possibly be con- 
founded by printed Proofs against it. But against 
Contempt and Scandal, heighten'd and colour'd by 
the Skill of an Actor ludicrously infusing it into a 
Multitude, there is no immediate Defence to be 
made or equal Reparation to be had for it; for it 
would be but a poor Satisfaction at last, after lying 
long patient under the Injury, that Time only is to 
shew (which would probably be the Case) that the 
Author of it was a desperate Indigent that did it for 
Bread. How much less dangerous or offensive, then, 
is the written than the acted Scandal .-* The Impres- 
sion the Comedian gives to it is a kind of double 



296 THE LIFE OF 

Stamp upon the Poet's Paper, that raises it to ten 
times the intrinsick Value. Might we not strengthen 
this Argument, too, even by the Eloquence that 
seem'd to have opposed this Law ? I will say for 
my self, at least, that when I came to read the printed 
Arguments against it, I could scarce believe they were 
the same that had amaz'd and raised such Admiration 
in me when they had the Advantage of a lively 
Elocution, and of that Grace and Spirit which gave 
Strength and Lustre to them in the Delivery ! 

Upon the whole ; if the Stage ought ever to have 
been reform'd ; if to place a Power somewhere of 
restraining its Immoralities was not inconsistent with 
the Liberties of a civiliz'd People (neither of which, 
sure, any moral Man of Sense can dispute) might it 
not have shewn a Spirit too poorly prejudiced, to 
have rejected so rational a Law only because the 
Honour and Office of a Minister might happen, in 
some small Measure, to be protected by it.^ 

But however little Weight there may be in the 
Observations I have made upon it, I shall, for my 
own Part, always think them just ; unless I should 
live to see (which I do not expect) some future Set 
of upright Ministers use their utmost Endeavours to 
repeal it. 

* Genest (iii. 521) remarks, " If the power of the Licenser had 
been laid under proper regulations^ all would have been right." 
The whole objection to the Licenser is simply that he is under no 
regulations whatever. He is a perfectly irresponsible authority, 
and one from whose decisions there is no appeal. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 297 

And now we have seen the Consequence of what 
many People are apt to contend for, Variety of Play- 
houses ! How was it possible so many could honestly 
subsist on what was fit to be seen ? Their extra- 
ordinary Number, of Course, reduc'd them to live 
upon the Gratification of such Hearers as they knew 
would be best pleased with publick Offence ; and 
publick Offence, of what kind soever, will always be 
a orood Reason for makiuQ^ Laws to restrain it. 

To conclude, let us now consider this Law in a 
quite different Light ; let us leave the political Part 
of it quite out of the Question ; what Advantage 
could either the Spectators of Plays or the Masters 
of Play-houses have gain'd by its having never been 
made ? How could the same Stock of Plays supply 
four Theatres, which (without such additional Enter- 
tainments as a Nation of common Sense ought to be 
ashamed of) could not well support two ? Satiety 
must have been the natural Consequence of the 
same Plays being twice as often repeated as now 
they need be ; and Satiety puts an End to all Tastes 
that the Mind of Man can delight in. Had therefore 
this Law been made seven Years ago, I should not 
have parted with my Share in the Patent under a 

thousand Pounds more than I received for it^ So 

that, as far as I am able to judge, both the Publick 
as Spectators, and the Patentees as Undertakers, 

^ Gibber received three thousand guineas from Highmore for 
his share in the Patent. (See Victor's " History," i. 8). 



298 THE LIFE OF MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 

are, or might be, in a way of being better entertain'd 
and more considerable Gainers by it. 

I now return to the State of the Stage, where I 
left it, about the Year 1697, from whence this Pursuit 
of its ImmoraHties has led me farther than I first 
design'd to have follow'd it. 




CHAPTER IX. . 

A small Apology for writing on. The different State of t/ie two 
Compajiies. Wilks invited over from Dublin. Estcourt, from 
the same Stage, the Winter following. Mrs. OldfieldV first 
Admission to the Theatre-Royal. Her Character. The great 
Theatre in the Hay- Market built for Betterton'j- Company. It 
Anszaers not their Expectation. Some Observations upon it. A 
Theatrical State Secret. 

I NOW begin to doubt that the Gayetd du Cosiir 
in which I first undertook this Work may have 
drawn me into a more laborious Amusement than I 
shall know how to away with : For though I cannot 
say I have yet jaded my Vanity, it is not impossible 
but by this time the most candid of my Readers may 
want a little Breath ; especially when they consider 



300 THE LIFE OF 

that all this Load I have heap'd upon their Patience 
contains but seven Years of the forty three I pass'd 
upon the Stage, the History of which Period I have 
enjoyn'd my self to transmit to the Judgment (or 
Oblivion) of Posterity/ However, even my Dulness 
will find somebody to do it right ; if my Reader is 
an ill-natur'd one, he will be as much pleased to find 
me a Dunce in my old Age as possibly he may have 
been to prove me a brisk Blockhead in my Youth : 
But if he has no Gall to gratify, and would (for his 
simple Amusement) as well know how the Play- 
houses went on forty Years ago as how they do now, 
I will honestly tell him the rest of my Story as well 
as I can. Lest therefore the frequent Digressions 
that have broke in upon it may have entangled his 
Memory, I must beg leave just to throw together the 
Heads of what I have already given him, that he 
may again recover the Clue of my Discourse. 

Let him then remember, from the Year 1660 to 
1682,^ the various Fortune of the (then) King's and 
Duke's two famous Companies ; their being reduced 
to one united ; the Distinct Characters I have given 

^ "The Laureat," page 72 : "Indeed, Laurent, notwithstanding 
what thou may'st dream of the Immortality of this Work of thine, 
and bestowing the same on thy Favourites by recording them 
here ; thou mayst, old as thou art, live to see thy precious Labours 
become the vile Wrappers of Pastry-Grocers and Chandlery 
Wares." The issue of the present edition of Gibber's "Apology" 
is sufficient commentary on "The Laureat's" ill-natured pro- 
phecy. 

'' Gibber prints 1684, repeating his former blunder. (See p. 96.) 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 3OI 

of thirteen Actors, which in the Year 1690 were the 
most famous then remaining of them ; the Cause of 
their being again divided in 1695, and the Conse- 
quences of that Division 'till 1697 ; from whence I 

shall lead them to our Second Union in Hold ! 

let me see ay, it was in that memorable Year 

when the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland 
were made one. And I remember a Particular that 
confirms me I am right in my Chronology ; for the 
Play of Hamlet being acted soon after, Estcourty 
who then took upon him to say any thing, added a 
fourth Line to Skakespears Prologue to the Play, in 
that Play which originally consisted but of three, but 
Estcourt made it run thus : 

For Us, and for our Tragedy, 
Here stooping to your Clemency, 
[This being a Year of Unity,] 
We beg your Hearing patiently} 
This new Chronological Line coming unexpectedly 
upon the Audience, was received with Applause, 
tho' several grave Faces look'd a little out of 
Humour at it. However, by this Fact, it is plain 
our Theatrical Union happen'd in 1707.^ But to 
speak of it in its Place I must go a little back again. 

' The first play acted by the United Company was " Hamlet." 
In this Estcourt is cast for the Gravedigger, so that if Gibber's 
anecdote is accurate, as no doubt it is, Estcourt must have 
" doubled " the Gravedigger and the speaker of the Prologue. 

^ The first edition reads " 1 708," and in the next chapter Gibber 
says 1708. In point of fact, the first performance by the United 
Gompany took place 15th January, 1 708. This docs not make Est- 



302 THE LIFE OF 

From 1697 to this Union both Companies went 
on without any memorable Change in their Affairs, 
unless it were that Bettertoiis People (however good 
in their Kind) were most of them too far advanc'd in 
Years to mend ; and tho' we in Dru7y-Lane were 
too young to be excellent, we were not too old to be 
better. But what will not Satiety depreciate ? For 
though I must own and avow that in our highest 
Prosperity I always thought we were greatly their 
Inferiors ; yet, by our good Fortune of being seen in 
quite new Lights, which several new-written Plays 
had shewn us in, we now began to make a consi- 
derable Stand against them. One good new Play to 
a rising Company is of inconceivable Value. In 
Oroonoko ^ (and why may I not name another, tho' 
it be my own ?) in Loves last Shift, and in the Sequel 
of it, the Relapse, several of our People shew'd them- 
selves in a new Style of Acting, in which Nature had 
not as yet been seen. I cannot here forget a Mis- 
fortune that befel our Society about this time, by 
the loss of a young Actor, Hildebrand Hordenf who 

court's "gag" incorrect, for though we now should not consider 
May, 1707, and the following January in the same year, yet up to 
1752, when the style was changed in England, they were so. 

^ Southeme's "Oroonoko" was produced at Drury Lane in 
1696. 

^ Of Horden we know little more than Gibber tells us. He 
seems to have been on the stage only for a year or two ; and 
during 1696 only, at Drury Lane, does his name appear to impor- 
tant parts. Davies ("Dram. Misc.," iii. 443) says Horden "was 
bred a Scholar : he complimented George Powell, in a Latin enco- 
mium on his Treacherous Brothers." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 3O3 

was klU'd at the Bar of the Rose-Tavern} in a frivo- 
lous, rash, accidental Quarrel ; for which a late Resi- 
dent at Venice, Colonel Burgess, and several other 
Persons of Distinction, took their Tryals, and were 
acquitted. This young Man had almost every na- 
tural Gift that could promise an excellent Actor ; he 
had besides a good deal of Table-wit and Humour, 
with a handsome Person, and was every Day rising 

"The London News-Letter," 20th May, 1696, says: "On 
Monday Capt. Surges who kill'd Mr. Fane, and was found guilty 
of Manslaughter at the Old Baily, kill'd Mr. Harding a Come- 
dian in a Quarrel at the Rose Tavern in Hattoti [should be 
Cove}it\ Gardeji, and is taken into custody." 

In "Luttrell's Diary," onjTuesday, 19th May, 1696, is noted: 
" Captain Burgesse, convicted last sessions of manslaughter for 
killing Mr. Fane, is committed to the Gatehouse for killing Mr. 
Horden, of the Playhouse, last night in Covent Garden." 

And on Tuesday, 30th November, 1697, "Captain Burgesse, who 
killed Mr. Horden the player, has obtained his majesties pardon." 

^ This tavern seems to have been very near Drury Lane 
Theatre, and to have been a favourite place of resort after the 
play. In the Epilogue to the "Constant Couple" the Rose 
Tavern is mentioned : — 

" Now all depart, each his respective way, 
To spend an evening's chat upon the play ; 
Some to Hippolito's ; one homeward goes. 
And one with loving she, retires to th' Rose." 

In the "Comparison between the two Stages" one scene is 
laid in the Rose Tavern, and from it we gather that the house was 
of a very bad character : — 

" Ra7nb. Defend us ! what a hurry of Sin is in this House ! 

Sull. Drunkenness, which is the proper Iniquity of a Tavern, is 
here the most excusable Sin ; so many other Sins over-run it, 'tis 

hardly seen in the crowd. 

Sull. This House is the very Camp of Sin ; the Devil sets up 



304 THE LIFE OF 

into publick Favour. Before he was bury'd, it was 
observable that two or three Days together several 
of the Fair Sex, well dress'd, came in Masks (then 
frequently worn) and some in their own Coaches, to 
visit this Theatrical Heroe in his Shrowd. He was 
the elder Son of Dr. Horden, Minister of Twicken- 
ham, in Middlesex. But this Misfortune was soon 
repair'd by the Return of Wilks from Dicblin (who 
upon this young Man's Death was sent for over) 
and liv'd long enough among us to enjoy that 
Approbation from which the other, was so unhappily 
cut off. The Winter following,^ Estcourt, the famous 
Mimick, of whom I have already spoken, had the 
same Invitation from Ireland, where he had com- 
menc'd Actor: His first Part here, at the Theatre- 
Royal, was the Spanish Friar, in which, tho' he had 
remembred every Look and Motion of the late 
Tony Leigh so far as to put the Spectator very 

his black Standard in the Faces of these hungry Harlots, and to 
enter into their Trenches is going down to the Bottomless Pit 
according to the letter." — Comp., p. 140. 

Pepys mentions the Rose more than once. On i8th May, 1668, 
the first day of Sedley's play, " The Mulberry Garden," the diarist^ 
having secured his place in the pit, and feeling hungry, " did slip 
out, getting a boy to keep my place ; and to the Rose Tavern, and 
there got half a breast of mutton, off the spit, and dined all alone. 
And so to the play again." 

^ Gibber's chronology cannot be reconciled with what we believe 
to be facts. Horden was killed in 1696; Wilks seems to have 
come to England not earlier than the end of 1698, while it is, I 
should say, certain that Estcourt did not appear before 1704. I 
can only suppose that Gibber, who is very reckless in his dates, 
is here particularly confused. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 305 

much in mind of him, yet it was visible through the 
whole, notwithstanding his Exactness in the Out- 
lines, the true Spirit that was to fill up the Figure 
was not the same, but unskilfully dawb'd on, like a 
Child's Painting upon the ¥ dico. o{ ?i Mefzo-tinto : It 
was too plain to the judicious that the Conception 
was not his own, but imprinted in his Memory by 
another, of whom he only presented a dead Like- 
ness.^ But these were Defects not so obvious to 
common Spectators ; no wonder, therefore, if by his 
being much sought after in private Companies, he 
met with a sort of Indulgence, not to say Partiality, 
for what he sometimes did upon the Stage. 

In the Year 1699, Mrs. Oldfield was first taken 
into the House, where she remain'd about a Twelve- 
month almost a Mute^ and unheeded, 'till Sir John 
Vanbrugh, who first recommended her, gave her the 
Part of Alinda in the Pilgrim revis'd. This gentle 
Character happily became that want of Confidence 
which is inseparable from young Beginners, who, 
without it, seldom arrive to any Excellence : Not- 
withstanding, I own I was then so far deceiv'd in my 
Opinion of her, that I thought she had little more 
than her Person that appear'd necessary to the 
forming a good Actress ; for she set out with so 
extraordinary a Diffidence, that it kept her too de- 

^ For Leigh's playing of this character, see ante, p. 145. 

= Curll, in his " Life of Mrs. Oldfield," says that the only part she 
played, previous to appearing as Alinda, was Candiopein "Secret 
Love." She played Alinda in 1700. 



306 THE LIFE OF 

spondingly down to a formal, plain (not to say) flat 
manner of speaking. Nor could the silver Tone of 
her Voice 'till after some time incline my Ear to 
any Hope in her favour. But Publick Approbation is 
the warm Weather of a Theatrical Plant, which will 
soon brinof it forward to whatever Perfection Nature 
has design'd it. However, Mrs. Oldfield (perhaps 
for want of fresh Parts) seem'd to come but slowly 
forward 'till the Year 1703.^ Our Company that 
Summer acted at the Bath during the Residence of 
Queen Amte at that Place. At that time it happen'd 
that Mrs. Verdruggeii, by reason of her last Sickness 
(of which she some few Months after dy'd) was left in 
London ; and though most of her Parts were, of course, 
to be dispos'd of, yet so earnest was the Female 
Scramble for them, that only one of them fell to the 
Share of Mrs. Oldfield, that oi Leonora in Sir Courtly 
Nice ; a Character of good plain Sense, but not over 
elegantly written. It was in this Part Mrs. Oldfield 
surpris'd me into an Opinion of her having all the 
innate Powers of a good Actress, though they were 
yet but in the Bloom of what they promis'd. Before 
she had acted this Part I had so cold an Expecta- 
tion from her Abilities, that she could scarce prevail 
with me to rehearse with her the Scenes she was 
chiefly concern'd in with Sir Courtly, which I then 
acted. However, we ran them over with a mutual 

^ In 1702, Gildon, in the "Comparison between the two 
Stages " (p. 200), includes Mrs. Oldfield among the " meer Rub- 
bish that ought to be swept off the Stage with the Filth and Dust." 




SIR JOHN VANBRUGH 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 307 

Inadvertency of one another. I seem'd careless, as 
concluding that any Assistance I could give her 
would be to little or no purpose ; and she mutter'd 
out her Words in a sort of mifty^ manner at my 
low Opinion of her. But when the Play came to be 
acted, she had a just Occasion to triumph over the 
Error of my Judgment, by the (almost) Amazement 
that her unexpected Performance awak'd me to; so 
forward and sudden a Step into Nature I had never 
seen ; and what made her Performance more valu- 
able was, that I knew it all proceeded from her own 
Understanding, untaught and unassisted by any one 
more experienc'd Actor.^ Perhaps it may not be 
unacceptable, if I enlarge a little more upon the 
Theatrical Character of so memorable an Actress.^ 

Thouofh this VdiVtoi Leonora in itself was of so little 
value, that when she got more into Esteem it was one 

^ " Miff," a colloquial expression signifying " a slight degree of 
resentment." 

^ Gibber is pleasantly candid in allowing that he had no share 
in Mrs. Oldfield's success. The temptation to assume some credit 
for teaching her something must have been great. 

^ Mrs. Anne Oldfield, born about 1683, was introduced to Van- 
brugh by Farquhar, who accidentally heard her reading aloud, and 
was struck by her dramatic style. Gibber gives so full an account of 
her that it is only necessary to add that she made her last appearance 
on 28th April, 1730, at Drury Lane, and that she died on the 23rd 
October in the same year. It was of Mrs. Oldfield that Pope wrote 
the often-quoted lines (" Moral Essays," Epistle I., Part iii.) : — 

"Odious ! in woollen ! 'twould a saint provoke 
(Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke), 
No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace 
Wrap my cold limbs, and shade my lifeless face : 
U 



308 THE LIFE OF 

of the several she gave away to inferior Actresses ; yet 
it was the first (as I have observ' d) that corrected my 
Judgment of her, and confirm'd me in a strong Belief 
that she could not fail in very little time of being what 
she was afterwards allow'd to be, the foremost Orna- 
ment of our Theatre. Upon this unexpected Sally, 
then, of the Power and Disposition of so unforeseen 
an Actress, it was that I again took up the two first 
Acts of the Ca7^elcss Htisbajid, which I had written the 
Summer before, and had thrown aside in despair of 
having Justice done to the Character of Lady Betty 
Modish by any one Woman then among us ; Mrs. Ver- 
bruggen being now in a very declining state of Health, 
and Mrs. Bracegirdle out of my Reach and engag'd in 
another Company : But, as I have said, Mrs. Oldjield 
having thrown out such new Proffers of a Genius, I 
was no longer at a loss for Support ; my Doubts 
were dispell'd, and I had now a new Call to finish it : 
Accordingly, the Careless Husband^ took its Fate 

One would not, sure, be frightful when one's dead — 
And — Betty — give this cheek a little red." 

I may note that, though Gibber enlarges chiefly on her comedy 
acting, she acted many parts in tragedy with the greatest success. 
' Produced 7th December, 1704, at Drury Lane. 
"The Careless Husband." 

Lord Morelove Mr. Powel. 

Lord Foppington Mr. Gibber. 

Sir Charles Easy Mr. Wiiks. 

Lady Betty Modish Mrs. Oldfield. 

Lady Easy Mrs. Knight. 

Lady Graveairs Mrs. INIoore. 

Mrs. Edging Mrs. Lucas. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 3O9 

Upon the Stage the Winter following, in 1704. 
Whatever favourable Reception this Comedy has 
met with from the Publick, it would be unjust in me 
not to place a large Share of it to the Account of Mrs. 
Oldfield', not only from the uncommon Excellence 
of her Action, but even from her personal manner 
of Conversing. There are many Sentiments in the 
Character of Lady Betty Modish that I may almost 
say were originally her own, or only dress'd with a 
little more care than when they negligently fell from 
her lively Humour : Had her Birth plac'd her in a 
higher Rank of Life, she had certainly appear'd in 
reality what in this Play she only excellently acted, 
an agreeably gay Woman of Quality a little too con- 
scious of her natural Attractions. I have often seen 
her in private Societies, where Women of the best 
Rank might have borrow'd some part of her Beha- 
viour without the least Diminution of their Sense or 
Dignity. And this very Morning, where I am now 
writing at the Bath, November 11, 1738, the same 
Words were said of her by a Lady of Condition, 
whose better Judgment of her Personal Merit in that 
Light has embolden'd me to repeat them. After 
her Success in this Character of higher Life, all that 
Nature had given her of the Actress seem'd to have 
risen to its full Perfection : But the Variety of her 
Power could not be known 'till she was seen in 
variety of Characters ; which, as fast as they fell to 
her, she equally excell'd in. Authors had much more 
from her Performance than they had reason to hope 



3IO THE LIFE OF 

for from what they had written for her ; and none 
had less than another, but as their Genius in the 
Parts they allotted her was more or less elevated. 

In the Wearing of her Person she was particularly 
fortunate ; her Figure was always improving to her 
Thirty-sixth Year ; but her Excellence in acting was 
never at a stand : And the last new Character she 
shone in {Lady Towiily) was a Proof that she was still 
able to do more, if more could have been done for her} 
She had one Mark of good Sense, rarely known in any 
Actor of either Sex but herself I have observ'd 
several, with promising Dispositions, very desirous 
of Instruction at their first setting out ; but no sooner 
had they found their least Account in it, than they 
were as desirous of being left to their own Capacity, 
which they then thought would be disgrac'd by their 
seeming to want any farther Assistance. But this 
was not Mrs. Oldfield's way of thinking ; for, to the 
last Year of her Life, she never undertook any Part 
she lik'd without being importunately desirous of 
having all the Helps in it that another could possibly 
give her. By knowing so much herself, she found 
how much more there was of Nature yet needful to 
be known. Yet it was a hard matter to give her any 
Hint that she was not able to take or improve. 

' Mrs. Oldfield played Lady Townly in the " Provoked Hus- 
band," loth January, 1728. I presume that Gibber means that 
this was her last important original part, for she was the original 
representative of Sophonisba (by James Thomson) and other 
characters after January, 1728. 



MR, COLLEY GIBBER. 3 I I 

With all this Merit she was tractable and less pre- 
suming in her Station than several that had not half 
her Pretensions to be troublesome : But she lost 
nothing by her easy Conduct ; she had every thing 
she ask'd, which she took care should be always 
reasonable, because she hated as much to be grudgd 
as denyd a Civility. Upon her extraordinary Action 
in the Provoked Htisband^ the Menagers made her a 
Present of Fifty Guineas more than her Agreement, 
which never was more than a Verbal one ; for they 
knew she was above deserting them to engage upon 
any other Stage, and she was conscious they would 
never think it their Interest to give her cause of 
Complaint. In the last two Months of her Illness, 
when she was no longer able to assist them, she 

' " The Provoked Husband." 

Lord Townly Mr. Wilks. 

Lady Townly Mrs. Oldfield. 

Lady Grace Mrs. Porter. 

Mr. Manley Mr. Mills, sen. 

Sir Francis Wronghead . . Mr. Gibber, sen. 

Lady Wronghead Mrs. Thurmond. 

Squire Richard Young Wetherelt. 

Miss Jenny Mrs. Gibber. 

John Moody Mr, Miller. 

Count Basset Mr. Bridgewater. 

Mrs. Motherly Mrs. Moore. 

Myrtilla Mrs. Grace. 

Mrs. Trusty Mrs. Mills. 

Vanbrugh left behind him nearly four acts of a play entitled 
"A Journey to London," which Gibber completed, calling the 
finished work " The Provoked Husband." It was produced at 
Drury Lane on loth January, 1728. 



312 THE LIFE OF 

declin'd receiving her Sallary, tho' by her Agreement 
she was entitled to it. Upon the whole she was, to 
the last Scene she acted, the Delight of her Spec- 
tators : Why then may we not close her Character 
with the same Indulgence with which Horace speaks 
of a commendable Poem : 

Ubi plura nitent — non ego paticis 

Offendar maculis ^ 

Where in the whole such various Beatities shine, 

' Twelve idle tipon Errors to refine'^ 
What more might be said of her as an Actress may 
be found in the Preface to the ProvoJid Husband, to 
which I refer the Reader.^ 

* " Verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis 
Offendar maculis." — Horace, Ars Foetica, 351. 

^ "The Laureat," p. 57 : " But I can see no Occasion you have 
to mention any Errors. She had fewer as an Actress than any ; 
and neither you, nor I, have any Right to enquire into her Conduct 
any where else." 

^ The following is the passage referred to : — 

" But there is no doing right to Mrs. Oldfield, without putting 
people in mind of what others, of great merit, have wanted to 
come near her — 'Tis not enough to say, she here outdid her usual 
excellence. I might therefore justly leave her to the constant 
admiration of those spectators who have the pleasure of living 
while she is an actress. But as this is not the only time she has 
been the life of what I have given the public, so, perhaps, my 
saying a little more of so memorable an actress, may give this 
play a chance to be read when the people of this age shall be 
ancestors— May it therefore give emulation to our successors of 
the stage, to know, that to the ending of the year 1727, a co- 
temporary comedian relates, that Mrs. Oldfield was then in her 
highest excellence of action, happy in all the rarely found requisites 
that meet in one person to complete them for the stage. She was 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 313 

With the Acquisition, then, of so advanc'd a 
Comedian as Mrs. Oldfield, and the Addition of one 
so much in Favour as Wilks, and by the visible 
Improvement of our other Actors, as PenketkmaUy 
Johnson, Bullock, and I think I may venture to name 
myself in the Number (but in what Rank I leave to 
the Judgment of those who have been my Spectators) 

in stature just rising to that height, where the graceful can only 
begin to show itself ; of a lively aspect, and a command in her 
mien, that like the principal figure in the finest painting, first 
seizes, and longest delights, the eye of the spectators. Her voice 
was sweet, strong, piercing, and melodious; her pronunciation 
voluble, distinct, and musical ; and her emphasis always placed, 
where the spirit of the sense, in her periods, only demanded it. 
If she delighted more in the higher comic, than in the tragic 
strain, 'twas because the last is too often written in a lofty disre- 
gard of nature. But in characters of modern practised life, she 
found occasion to add the particular air and manner which dis- 
tinguished the different humours she presented ; whereas, in 
tragedy, the manner of speaking varies as little as the blank verse 
it is written in. — She had one peculiar happiness from nature, she 
looked and maintained the agreeable, at a time when other fine 
women only raise admirers by their understanding — The spectator 
was always as much informed by her eyes as her elocution ; for 
the look is the only proof that an actor rightly conceives what he 
utters, there being scarce an instance, where the eyes do their 
part, that the elocution is known to be faulty. The qualities she 
had acquired, were the genteel and the elegant ; the one in her 
air, and the other in her dress, never had her equal on the stage ; 
and the ornaments she herself provided (particularly in this play) 
seemed in all respects the paraphernalia of a woman of cjuality. 
And of that sort were the characters she chiefly excelled in ; but 
her natural good sense, and lively turn of conversation, made her 
way so easy to ladies of the highest rank, that it is a less wonder 
if, on the stage, she sometimes was, what might have become the 
finest woman in real life to have supported." [Bell's edition.] 



314 THE LIFE OF • 

the Reputation of our Company began to get ground ; 
Mrs. Oldjield and Mr. Wilks, by their frequently 
playing against one another in our best Comedies, 
very happily supported that Humour and Vivacity 
which is so peculiar to our E7iglish Stage. The 
French, our only modern Competitors, seldom give 
us their Lovers in such various Lio-hts : In their 
Comedies (however lively a People they are by 
nature) their Lovers are generally constant, simple 
Sighers, both of a Mind, and equally distressed about 
the Difficulties of their coming toeether ; which 
naturally makes their Conversation so serious that 
they are seldom good Company to their Auditors : 
And tho' I allow them many other Beauties of which 
we are too negligent, yet our Variety of Humour has 
Excellencies that all their valuable Observance of 
Rules have never yet attained to. By these Advan- 
tages, then, we began to have an equal Share of the 
politer sort of Spectators, who, for several Years, 
could not allow our Company to stand in any com- 
parison with the other. But Theatrical Favour, like 
Publick Commerce, will sometimes deceive the best 
Judgments by an unaccountable change of its Channel ; 
the best Commodities are not always known to meet 
with the best Markets. To this Decline of the Old 
Company many Accidents might contribute ; as the 
too distant Situation of their Theatre, or. their want 
of a better, for it was not then in the condition it 
now is, but small, and poorly fitted up within the 
Walls of a Tennis Qiiaree Court, which is of the 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 315 

lesser sort.' Booth, who was then a young Actor 
among them, has often told me of the Difficulties 
Beiicrton then labour'd under and complain'd of: 
How impracticable he found it to keep their Body to 
that common Order which was necessary for their 
Support ;^ of their relying too much upon their intrin- 
sick Merit ; and though but few of them were young 
even when they first became their own Masters, yet 
they were all now ten Years older, and consequendy 
more liable to fall into an inactive Negligence, or 
were only separately diligent for themselves in the 
sole Regard of their Benefit-Plays ; which several of 
their Principals knew, at worst, would raise them 
Contributions that would more than tolerably subsist 
them for the current Year. But as these were too 
precarious Expedients to be always depended upon, 
and brought in nothing to the general Support of 

^ Mr. Julian Marshall, in his "Annals of Tennis," p. 34, 
describes the two different sorts of tennis courts — " that which was 
called Le Qiiarre, or the Square ; and the other with the dedans, 
which is almost the same as that of the present day." Gibber is 
thus correct in mentioning that the court was one of the lesser sort. 

^ Interesting confirmation of Gibber's statement is furnished by 
an edict of the Lord Chamberlain, dated nth November, 1700, by 
which Betterton is ordered " to take upon him y'' sole management" 
of the Lincoln's Inn Fields company, there having been great dis- 
orders, "for want of sufficient authority to keep them to their 
duty." See David Graufurd's Preface to " Gourtship c\ la Mode " 
(1700), for an account of the disorganized state of the Lincoln's 
Inn Fields Gompany. He says that though Betterton did his 
best, some of the actors neither learned their parts nor attended 
rehearsals ; and he therefore withdrew his comedy and took it to 
Drury Lane, where it was promptly produced. 



o 



1 6 THE LIFE OF 



the Numbers who were at Sallaries under them, they 
were reduc'd to have recourse to foreign Novelties ; 
L'Abbee, Balon, and Mademoiselle Subligny^ three 
of the then most famous Dancers of the Frejick 
Opera, were, at several times, brought over at extra- 
ordinary Rates, to revive that sickly Appetite which 
plain Sense and Nature had satiated.^ But alas ! 
there was no recovering to a sound Constitution by 
those mere costly Cordials ; the Novelty of a Dance 
was but of a short Duration, and perhaps hurtful in 
its consequence ; for it made a Play without a Dance 
less endur'd than it had been before, when such 
Dancing was not to be had. But perhaps their ex- 

^ Mons. Castil-Blaze, in his "La Danse et les Ballets," 1832, 
p. 153, writes: "Ballon danse avec energie et vivacite; made- 
moiselle de Subligny se fait generalement admirer pour sa danse 
noble et gracieuse." Madlle. Subligny was one of the first women 
who were dancers by profession. " La demoiselle Subligny parut 
peu de temps apres la demoiselle Fontaine [1681], et fut aussi fort 
applaudie pour sa danse; mais elle quitta le theatre, en 1705, et 
mourut apres I'annee 1736." — "Histoirede I'Opera." Of Mons. 
L'Abb^ I have been unable to discover any critical notice. 

* Downes (" Roscius Anglicanus," p. 46) says : " In the space 
of Ten Years past, Mr. Bettertojt to gratify the desires and Fancies 
of the Nobility and Gentry ; procur'd from Abroad the best Dances 
and Singers, as Monsieur L'Abbe, Madam Sublini, Monsieur Balon, 
Margarita De/pine, Maria Gallia and divers others ; who being 
Exhorbitantly Expensive, produc'd small Profit to him and his 
Company, but vast Gain to themselves." 

Gildon, in the " Comparison between the two Stages," alludes 
to some of these dancers : — 

" Sull. The Town ran mad to see him [Balon], and the prizes 
were rais'd to an extravagant degree to bear the extravagant rate 
they allow'd him " (p. 49). 



MR. COLLEY CIEBER. 317 

hibiting these Novelties might be owing to the Suc- 
cess we had met with in our more barbarous intro- 
ducing of French Mimicks and Tumblers the Year 
before ; of which Mr. Rowe thus complains in his 
Prologue to one of his first Plays : 

Must Shakespear, Fletcher, and laborious Ben, 
Be left for Scaramouch and Harlequin ?^ 

While the Crowd, therefore, so fluctuated from one 
House to another as their Eyes were more or less 
regaled than their Ears, it could not be a Question 
much in Debate which had the better Actors ; the 
Merit of either seem'd to be of little moment ; and 
the Complaint in the foregoing Lines, tho' it might 
be just for a time, could not be a just one for ever, 
because the best Play that ever was writ may tire 
by being too often repeated, a Misfortune naturally 
attending the Obligation to play every Day ; not that 

" Crit. There's another Toy now [Madame Subligny] — Gad, 
there's not a Year but some surprizing Monster lands : I wonder 
they don't first show her at Fleci-bridge with an old Drum and a 
crackt Trumpet" (p. 67). 

^ In the Prologue to " The Ambitious Stepmother," produced 
at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1701 (probably), Rowe writes : — 
" The Stage would need no Farce, nor Song nor Dance, 
Nor Capering Monsieur brought from Active France." 
And in the Epilogue (not Prologue, as Gibber says) : — 
" Show but a Mimick Ape, or French Buffoon, A 
You to the other House in Shoals are gone, |- 
And leave us here to Tune our Growds alone, j 
Must Shakespear, Fletcher, and laborious Ben, 
Be left for Scaramouch and Harlaquin?" 



3l8 THE LIFE OF 

whenever such Satiety commences it will be any 
Proof of the Play's being a bad one, or of its being 
ill acted. In a word, Satiety is seldom enough con- 
sider'd by either Criticks, Spectators, or Actors, as 
the true, not to say just Cause of declining Audiences 
to the most rational Entertainments : And tho' I 
cannot say I ever saw a good new Play not attended 
with due Encouragement, yet to keep a Theatre daily 
open without sometimes giving the Publick a bad 
old one, is more than I doubt the Wit of human 
Writers or Excellence of Actors will ever be able to 
accomplish. And as both Authors and Comedians 
may have often succeeded where a sound Judgment 
would have condemn'd them, it might puzzle the 
nicest Critick living to prove In what sort of Excel- 
lence the true Value of either consisted : For if their 
Merit were to be measur'd by the full Houses they 
may have brought; if the Judgment of the Crowd 
were infallible ; I am afraid we shall be reduc'd to 
allow that the Beggars Opera was the best-written 
Play, and Sir Harry Wildair^ (as Wilks play'd it) 
was the best acted Part, that ever our English 
Theatre had to boast of. That Critick, indeed, must 
be rigid to a Folly that would deny either of them 
their due Praise, when they severally drew such 
Numbers after them ; all their Hearers could not be 
mistaken ; and yet, if they were all in the right, what 
sort of Fame will remain to those celebrated Authors 

' In "The Constant Couple," and its sequel, "Sir Harry 
Wildair." 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 3I9 

and Actors that had so long and deservedly been 
admired before these were in Being. The only Dis- 
tinction I shall make between them is, That to 
write or act like the Authors or Actors of the latter 
end of the last Century, I am of Opinion will be 
found a far better Pretence to Success than to imitate 
these who have been so crowded to in the beginning 
of this. All I would infer from this Explanation is, 
that tho' we had then the better Audiences, and 
might have more of the young World on our Side, 
yet this was no sure Proof that the other Company 
were not, in the Truth of Action, greatly our Supe- 
riors. These elder Actors, then, besides the Dis- 
advantages I have mention'd, having only the fewer 
true Judges to admire them, naturally wanted the 
Support of the Crowd whose Taste was to be pleased 
at a cheaper Rate and with coarser Fare. To re- 
cover them, therefore, to their due Estimation, a new 
Project was form'd of building them a stately Theatre 
in the Hay-Market^ by Sir John Vanbrugh, for 
which he raised a Subscription of thirty Persons of 
Quality, at one hundred Pounds each, in Considera- 
tion whereof every Subscriber, for his own Life, was 
to be admitted to whatever Entertainments should 
be publickly perform'd there, without farther Pay- 
ment for his Entrance. Of this Theatre I saw the 

* This theatre, opened 9th April, 1705, was burnt down 17th 
June, 1788; rebuilt 1791 ; again burnt in 1867. During its ex- 
istence it has borne the name of Queen's Theatre, Opera House, 
King's Theatre, and its present title of Her Majesty's Theatre. 



320 THE LIFE OF 

first Stone laid, on which was inscrib'd The little 
Whig, in Honour to a Lady of extraordinary Beauty, 
then the celebrated Toast and Pride of that Party.^ 

In the Year 1706,^ when this House was finish'd, 
Bcttertoii and his Co-partners dissolved their own 
Agreement, and threw themselves under the Direc- 
tion of S\Y John Vanbrugh and Mr. Congreve, ima- 
gining, perhaps, that the Conduct of two such emi- 
nent Authors might give a more prosperous Turn to 
their Condition ; that the Plays it would now be 
their Interest to write for them would soon recover 
the Town to a true Taste, and be an Advantage that 
no other Company could hope for ; that in the 
Interim, till such Plays could be written, the Gran- 
deur of their House, as it was a new Spectacle, 
might allure the Crowd to support them : But if 
these were their Views, we shall see that their 
Dependence upon them was too sanguine. As to 
their Prospect of new Plays, I doubt it was not 
enough consider'd that good ones were Plants of a 
slow Growth ; and tho' Sir John Vanbrugh had a 

' The beautiful Lady Sunderland. Mr. Percy Fitzgerald ("New 
History," i. 238) states that it was said that workmen, on 19th 
March, 1825, found a stone with the inscription: "April i8th, 
1704. This corner-stone of the Queen's Theatre was laid by his 
Grace Charles Duke of Somerset." 

^ Should be 1705. Downes (p. 47) says: "About the end of 
1704, Mr. Betterton Assign'd his License, and his whole Company 
over to Captain Vantbnigg to Act under HIS, at the Theatre in 
the Hay Market'' Vanbrugh opened his theatre on 9th April, 
1705- 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 32 1 

very quick Pen, yet Mr. Congreve was too judicious 
a Writer to let any thing come hastily out of his 
Hands : As to their other Dependence, the House, 
they had not yet discover'd that almost every proper 
Quality and Convenience of a good Theatre had 
been sacrificed or neglected to shew the Spectator a 
vast triumphal Piece of Architecture ! And that the 
best Play, for the Reasons I am going to offer, could 
not but be under great Disadvantages, and be less 
capable of delighting the Auditor here than it could 
have been in the plain Theatre they came from. 
For what could their vast Columns, their gilded 
Cornices, their immoderate high Roofs avail, when 
scarce one Word in ten could be distinctly heard in 
it ? Nor had it then the Form it now stands in, 
which Necessity, two or three Years after, reduced it 
to : At the first opening it, the flat Ceiling that is 
now over the Orchestre was then a Semi-oval Arch 
that sprung fifteen Feet higher from above the Cor- 
nice : The Ceiling over the Pit, too, was still more 
raised, being one level Line from the highest back 
part of the upper Gallery to the Front of the Stage : 
The Front-boxes were a continued Semicircle to the 
bare Walls of the House on each Side : This extra- 
ordinary and superfluous Space occasion'd such an 
Undulation from the Voice of every Actor, that 
generally what they said sounded like the Gabbling 
of so many People in the lofty Isles in a Cathedral 
— The Tone of a Trumpet, or the Swell of an 
Eunuch's holding Note, 'tis true, might be sweeten'd 



32 2 THE LIFE OF 

by it, but the articulate Sounds of a speaking Voice 
were drown'd by the hollow Reverberations of one 
Word upon another. To this Inconvenience, why 
may we not add that of its Situation ; for at that time 
it had not the Advantage of almost a large City, 
which has since been built in its Neig-hbourhood : 
Those costly Spaces of Hanover, Grosvenor, and 
Cavendish Squares, with the many and great adja- 
cent Streets about them, were then all but so many 
green Fields of Pasture, from whence they could 
draw little or no Sustenance, unless it were that of a 
Milk-Diet. The City, the Inns of Court, and the 
middle Part of the Town, which were the most con- 
stant Support of a Theatre, and chiefly to be relied 
on, were now too far out of the Reach of an easy 
Walk, and Coach-hire is often too hard a Tax upon 
the Pit and Gallery,^ But from the vast Increase of 
the Buildings I have mention'd, the Situation of that 
Theatre has since that Time received considerable 
Advantages ; a new World of People of Condition 
are nearer to it than formerly, and I am of Opinion 
that if the auditory Part were a little more reduced 
to the Model of that in Dricry-Lane, an excellent 

^ In Dryden's Prologue at the opening of Dmry Lane in 1674, 
in comparing the situation of Drury Lane with that of Dorset 
Garden, which was at the east end of Fleet Street, he talks of 

" a cold bleak road, 

Where bears in furs dare scarcely look abroad," 

This is now the Strand and Fleet Street ! No doubt the road 
westward to the Haymarket was equally wild. 



MR. COLLEY CIRBER. 323 

Company of Actors would now find a better Account 
in it than in any other House in this populous City/ 
Let me not be mistaken, I say an excellent Com- 
pany, and such as might be able to do Justice to the 
best of Plays, and throw out those latent Beauties in 
them which only excellent Actors can discover and 
give Life to. If such a Company were now there, 
they would meet with a quite different Set of Audi- 
tors than other Theatres have lately been used to : 
Polite Hearers would be content with polite Enter- 
tainments ; and I remember the time when Plays, 
without the Aid of Farce or Pantomime, were as 
decently attended as Opera's or private Assemblies, 
where a noisy Sloven would have past his time as 
uneasily in a Front-box as in a Drawing-room ; when 
a Hat upon a Man's Head there would have been 
look'd upon as a sure Mark of a Brute or a Booby : 
But of all this I have seen, too, the Reverse, where 
in the Presence of Ladies at a Play common Civility 
has been set at defiance, and the Privilege of being 
a rude Clown, even to a N usance, has in a manner 
been demanded as one of the Rights of English 
Liberty : Now, though I grant that Liberty is so 
precious a Jewel that we ought not to suffer the least 
Ray of its Lustre to be diminish'd, yet methinks the 
Liberty of seeing a Play in quiet has as laudable a 
Claim to Protection as the Privilege of not suffering 
you to do it has to Impunity. But since we are so 

^ This experiment was never tried. From the time Gibber 
wrote, the house was used as an Opera House. 

X 



324 THE LIFE OF 

happy as not to have a certain Power among us, 
which in another Country is call'd the Police, let us 
rather bear this Insult than buy its Remedy at too 
dear a Rate ; and let it be the Punishment of such 
wrong-headed Savages, that they never will or can 
know the true Value of that Liberty which they so 
stupidly abuse : Such vulgar Minds possess their 
Liberty as profligate Husbands do fine Wives, only 
to disgrace them. In a Word, when Liberty boils 
over, such is the Scum of it. But to our new erected 
Theatre. 

Not long before this Time the Italian Opera 
began first to steal into England} but in as rude a 
disguise and unlike it self as possible ; in a lame, 
hobling Translation into our own Language, with 
false Quantities, or Metre out of Measure to its 
original Notes, sung by our own unskilful Voices, 
with Graces misapply'd to almost every Sentiment, 
and with Action lifeless and unmeaning through 
every Character : The first Italian Performer that 

' " to Court, 

Her seat imperial Dulness shall transport. 

Already Opera prepares the way, 

The sure fore-runner of her gentle sway." 

"Dunciad," iii. verses 301-303. 
" When lo ! a harlot form soft sliding by, 
With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye ; 
Foreign her air, her robe's discordant pride 
In patchwork fluttering, and her head aside ; 
By singing peers upheld on either hand, 
She tripp'd and laugh'd, too pretty much to stand." 
"Dunciad," iv. verses 45-50. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 325 

made any distinguish'd Figure in it was Valentini, a 
true sensible Singer at that time, but of a Throat 
too weak to sustain those melodious Warblings for 
which the fairer Sex have since idoliz'd his Suc- 
cessors. However, this Defect was so well sup- 
pi y'd by his Action, that his Hearers bore with the 
Absurdity of his singing his first Part of Ttivnus 
in Camilla all in Italian, while every other Cha- 
racter was sung and recited to him in English} This 
I have mention'd to shew not only our Tramon- 
tane Taste, but that the crowded Audiences which 
follow'd it to Drury-La7ie might be another Oc- 
casion of their growing thinner in Lincolns-Inn- 
Fields. 

To strike in, therefore, with this prevailing No- 
velty, Sir Johjt Vanbrtigk and Mr. Congreve open'd 
their new Hay -Market Theatre with a translated 
Opera to Italian Musick, called the Tritimph of 
Love, but this not having in it the Charms of 
Camilla, either from the Inequality of the Musick or 
Voices, had but a cold Reception, being perform'd 
but three Days, and those not crowded. Imme- 
diately upon the Failure of this Opera, Sir John 
Vanbrugh produced his Comedy call'd the Confede- 

' Salvini, the great Italian actor, played in America with an 
English company, he speaking in Italian, they answering in 
English. I have myself seen a similar polyglot performance at 
the Edinburgh Lyceum Theatre, where the manager, Mr. J. B. 
Howard, acted lago (in English), while Signer Salvini and his 
company played in Italian. I confess the effect was not so 
startling as I expected. 



326 THE LIFE OF 

racy} taken (but greatly improv'd) from the Bour- 
geois a la mode of Dancour : Though the Fate of 
this Play was something better, yet I thought it was 
not equal to its Merit :^ For it is written with an 
uncommon Vein of Wit and Humour ; which confirms 
me in my former Observation, that the difficulty of 
hearing distinctly in that then wide Theatre was no 
small Impediment to the Applause that might have 
followed the same Actors in it upon every other Stage ; 
and indeed every Play acted there before the House 
was alter'd seemed to suffer from the same Inconve- 
nience : In a Word, the Prospect of Profits from 
this Theatre was so very barren, that Mr. Congreve 
in a few Months gave up his Share and Interest in 
the Government of it wholly to Sir John Vanbrtigk.^ 
But Sir John, being sole Proprietor of the House, 
was at all Events oblig'd to do his utmost to support 
it. As he had a happier Talent of throwing the 
English Spirit into his Translation oi French Plays 
than any former Author who had borrowed from 
them, he in the same Season gave the Publick three 
more of that kind, call'd the Cuckold i^i Conceit, from 
the Cocu imaginaire of Mo Here ]'^ Squire Trelooby, 

^ " The Confederacy " was not produced till the following season 
— 30th October, 1705. 

^ It was acted ten times. 

' Genest (ii. 333) says that Congreve resigned his share at the 
close of the season 1704-5. 

' Gibber should have said "The Confederacy." "The Cuckold 
in Conceit " has never been printed, and Genest doubts if it is by 
Vanbrugh. Besides, it was not produced till 22nd March, 1707. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 327 

from his Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, and the Mistake, 
from the Dipit Amoureux of the same Author/ 
Yet all these, however well executed, came to the 
Ear in the same undistinguish'd Utterance by which 
almost all their Plays had equally suffered : For 
what few could plainly hear, it was not likely a great 
many could applaud. 

It must farther be consider'd, too, that this Com- 
pany were not now what they had been when they 
first revolted from the Patentees in Driiry-Lane, and 
became their own Masters in Lincohis- Inn- Fields. 
Several of them, excellent in their different Talents, 
were now dead ; as Smith, Ky7iaston, Sandford, and 
Leigh : Mrs. Betterton and Underhil being, at this 
time, also superannuated Pensioners whose Places 
were generally but ill supply'd : Nor could it be ex- 
pected that Betterton himself, at past seventy, could 
retain his former Force and Spirit ; though he was 
yet far distant from any Competitor. Thus, then, 
were these Remains of the best Set of Actors that I 
believe were ever known at once in England, by 
Time, Death, and the Satiety of their Hearers, moul- 
d'ring to decay. 

It was now the Town-talk that nothing but a 
Union of the two Companies could recover the Stage 
to its former Reputation,^ which Opinion was certainly 

^ <' The Mistake "was produced 27 th December, 1705. "Squire 
Trelooby," which was first played in 1704, was revived 28th 
January, 1706, with a new second act. 

' A junction of the companies seems to have been talked of as 



328 THE LIFE OF 

true : One would have thought, too, that the Patentee 
of Driiry-Lane could not have fail'd to close with it, 
he being then on the Prosperous Side of the Ques- 
tion, having no Relief to ask for himself, and little 
more to do in the matter than to consider what he 
might safely grant : But it seems this was not his 
way of counting ; he had other Persons who had 
great Claims to Shares in the Profits of this Stage, 
which Profits, by a Union, he foresaw would be too 
visible to be doubted of, and might raise up a new 
Spirit in those Adventurers to revive their Suits at 
Law with him ; for he had led them a Chace in 
Chancery several Years,^ and when they had driven 
him into a Contempt of that Court, he conjur'd up a 
Spirit, in the Shape of Six and eight Pence a-day, 
that constantly struck the Tipstaff blind whenever 
he came near him : He knew the intrinsick Value of 
Delay, and was resolv'd to stick to it as the surest 
way to give the Plaintiffs enough on't. And by this 
Expedient our good Master had long walk'd about 
at his Leisure, cool and contented as a Fox when 
the Hounds were drawn off and gone home from 

early as 1701. In the Prologue to "The Unhappy Penitent" 
(1701), the lines occur : — 

" But now the peaceful tattle of the town, 

Is how to join both houses into one." 

^ In '• The Post-Boy Rob'd of his Mail," p. 342, some curious 
particulars of the negotiations for a Union are given. One of 
Rich's objections to it is that he has to consider the interests of 
his Partners, with some of whom he has already been compelled 
to go to law on monetary questions. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 329 

him. But whether I am right or not in my Conjec- 
tures, certain it is that this close Master of Drury- 
Lane had no IncHnation to a Union, as will appear 
by the Sequel.^ 

Sir John Vanbrtigh knew, too, that to make a 
Union worth his while he must not seem too hasty 
for it ; he therefore found himself under a Necessity, 
in the mean time, of letting his whole Theatrical 
Farm to some industrious Tenant that might put it 
into better Condition. This is that Crisis, as I ob- 
served in the Eighth Chapter, when the Royal 
Licence for acting Plays, &c. was judg'd of so little 
Value as not to have one Suitor for it. At this time, 
then, the Master of Drury-Lane happen'd to have a 
sort of primier Agent in his Stage- Affairs, that seem'd 
in Appearance as much to govern the Master as the 
Master himself did to govern his Actors : But this 
Person was under no Stipulation or Sallary for the 
Service he render'd, but had gradually wrought him- 
self into the Master's extraordinary Confidence and 
Trust, from an habitual Intimacy, a cheerful Humour, 

^ In July, 1705, Rich was approached on behalf of Vanbrugh 
regarding a Union, and the Lord Chamberlain supported the 
latter's proposal. Rich, in decHning, wrote : " I am concern'd 
with above forty Persons in number, either as Adventurers under 
the two Patents granted to Sir William Davenant, and T/io. Killi- 
grew, Esq.; or as Renters of Covent-Gardcn and Dorsci-Gardcn 

Theatres I am a purchaser under the Patents, to above 

the value of two Thousand Pounds (a great i)art of which was 
under the Marriage-Settlements of Dr. Davenant) " — " The Post- 
Boy Rob'd of his Mail," p. 344. 



330 THE LIFE OF 

and an indefatigable Zeal for his Interest. If I 
should farther say, that this Person has been well 
known in almost every Metropolis in Europe \ that 
few private Men have, with so little Reproach, run 
through more various Turns of Fortune ; that, on 
the wrong side of Three-score, he has yet the open 
Spirit of a hale young Fellow of five and twenty ; 
that though he still chuses to speak what he thinks 
to his best Friends with an undisguis'd Freedom, he 
is, notwithstanding, acceptable to many Persons of 
the first Rank and Condition ; that any one of them 
(provided he likes them) may now send him, for their 
Service, to Constantmople at half a Day's Warning ; 
that Time has not yet been able to make a visible 
Change in any Part of him but the Colour of his 
Hair, from a fierce coal-black to that of a milder 
milk-white : When I have taken this Liberty with 
him, methinks it cannot be taking a much greater if 
I at once should tell you that this Person was Mr. 
Owen Swiney^ and that it was to him Sir Jolm 

* Owen Swiney, or Mac Swiney, was an Irishman. As is related 
by Gibber in this and following chapters, he leased the Haymarket 
from Vanbrugh from the beginning of the season 1706-7. At the 
Union, 1707-8, the Haymarket was made over to him for the 
production of operas; and when, at the end of 1708-9, Rich was 
ordered to silence his company at Drury Lane, Swiney was allowed 
to engage the chief of Rich's actors to play at the Haymarket, 
where they opened September, 1709. At the beginning of season 
1710-11, Swiney and his partners became managers of Drury 
Ivane, but Swiney M'as forced at the end of that season to resume 
the management of the operas. After a year of the Opera-house 
(end of 1711-12), Swiney was ruined and had to go abroad. He 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 331 

Vanbrugh, in this Exigence of his Theatrical Affairs, 
made an Offer of his Actors, under such Agreements 
of Sallary as might be made with them ; and of his 
House, Cloaths, and Scenes, with the Queen's License 
to employ them, upon Payment of only the casual 
Rent of five Pounds upon every acting Day, and 
not to exceed 700/. in the Year. Of this Proposal 
Mr. Swincy desir'd a Day or two to consider ; for, 
however he might like it, he would not meddle in 
any sort without the Consent and Approbation of his 
Friend and Patron, the Master of Driiry Lane. 
Having" given the Reasons why this Patentee was 
averse to a Union, it may now seem less a Wonder 
why he immediately consented that Swiney should 
take the Hay- Market House, &c. and continue that 
Company to act against him ; but the real Truth was, 
that he had a mind both Companies should be clan- 
destinely under one and the same Interest, and yet 
in so loose a manner that he mio-ht declare his 
Verbal Agreement with Swiney good, or null and 
void, as he might best find his Account in either. 
What flatter'd him that he had this wholsom 

remained abroad some twenty years. On 26th February, 1735, 
he had a benefit at Drury Lane, at which Gibber played for his 
old friend. The "Biographia Dramatica" says that he received 
a place in the Custom House, and was made Keeper of the 
King's Mews. He died 2nd October, 1754, leaving his property 
to Mrs. Woffington. Davies, in his "Dramatic Miscellanies" (i. 
232), tells an idle tale of a scuffle between Swiney and Mrs. Clive's 
brother, which Bellchambers quotes at length, though it has no 
special reference to anything. 



332 THE LIFE OF 

Project, and Swhiey to execute it, both in his 
Power, was that at this time Swiney happen'd to 
stand in his Books Debtor to Cash upwards of 
Two Hundred Pounds : But here, we shall find, he 
over- rated his Security. However, Swiney as yet 
follow'd his Orders; he took the Hay-Market Theatre, 
and had, farther, the private Consent of the Patentee 
to take such of his Actors from Drury-Lane as either 
from Inclination or Discontent, might be willing to 
come over to him in the Hay-Ma7'ket. The only 
one he made an Exception of, was myself : For tho' 
he chiefly depended upon his Singers and Dancers,^ 
he said it would be necessary to keep some one 
tolerable Actor with him, that might enable him to 
set those Machines a eoine. Under this Limitation 
of not entertaining me, Swiney seem'd to acquiesce 
'till after he had open'd with the so recruited Com- 
pany in the Hay-Market : the Actors that came to 
him from Drury-Lajie were Wilks, Estcourt,^ Mills, 
Keen,^ Johnson, Bullock, Mrs. Oldfield, Mrs. Rogers, 
and some few others of less note : But I must here 
let you know that this Project was form'd and put in 
Execution all in very few Days, in the Summer- 

^ At Drury Lane this season (1706-7) very few plays were acted. 
Rich relying chiefly on operas. 

^ Gibber seems to be wrong in including Estcourt in this list. 
His name appears in the Drury Lane bills for 1706-7, and his 
great part of Sergeant Kite (" Recruiting Officer") was played at 
the Haymarket by Pack. On 30th November, 1706, it was adver- 
tised that " the true Sergeant Kite is performed at Drury Lane." 

^ See memoir of Theophilus Keen at end of second volume. 



MR. COLLEY CIBBER. 333 

Season, when no Theatre was open. To all which I 
was entirely a Stranger, being at this time at a 
Gentleman's House in Gloucestershire, scribbling, if 
I mistake not, the Wifes Resentment} 

The first Word I heard of this Transaction was 
by a Letter from Swiney, inviting me to make One 
in the Hay- Market Company, whom he hop'd I 
could not but now think the stronger Party. But I 
confess I was not a little alarm'd at this Revolution : 
For I consider'd, that I knew of no visible Fund to 
support these Actors but their own Industry ; that all 
his Recruits from Drury-Lane would want new 
Cloathing ; and that the warmest Industry would be 
always labouring up Hill under so necessary an Ex- 
pence, so bad a Situation, and so inconvenient a 
Theatre. I was always of opinion, too, that in 
changing Sides, in most Conditions, there generally 
were discovered more unforeseen Inconveniencies 
than visible Advantages ; and that at worst there 
would always some sort of Merit remain with Fidelity, 
the' unsuccessful. Upon these Considerations I was 

^ Downes (p. 50) gives the following account of the transac- 
tion : — 

" In this Interval Captain Vantbnigg by Agreement with Mr. 
Swinny, and by the Concurrence of my Lord Chamberlain, Trans- 
ferr'd and Invested his License and Government of the Theatre 
to Mr. Swinny; who brought with him from Mr. Rich, Mr. WilkSy 
Mr. Cyber, Mr. Mills, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Kccnc, Mr. Norn's, Mr. 
Fairbank, Mrs. Oldficld and others; United them to the Old 
Company ; Mr. Betterton and Mr. Underhill, being the only re- 
mains of the Duke of York's Servants, from 1662, till the Union 
in October 1706." 



334 THE LIFE OF 

only thankful for the Offers made me from the Hay- 
Market, without accepting them, and soon after came 
to Town towards the usual time of their beginning 
to act, to offer my Service to our old Master. But 
I found our Company so thinn'd that it was almost 
impracticable to bring any one tolerable Play upon 
the Stage/ When I ask'd him where were his 
Actors, and in what manner he intended to proceed ? 
he reply'd, Don t you trouble yourself , come along, and 
ril shew you. He then led me about all the By- 
places in the House, and shew'd me fifty little Back- 
doors, dark Closets, and narrow Passages ; in Altera- 
tions and Contrivances of which kind he had busied 
his Head most part of the Vacation ; for he was 
scarce ever without some notable Joyner, or a Brick- 
layer extraordinary, in pay, for twenty Years. And 
there are so many odd obscure Places about a 
Theatre, that his Genius in Nook-building was never 
out of Employment ; nor could the most vain-headed 
Author be more deaf to an Interruption in reciting 
his Works, than our wise Master was while enter- 
taining me with the Improvements he had made in 
his invisible Architecture ; all which, without thinking 
any one Part of it necessary, tho' I seem'd to ap- 
prove, I could not help now and then breaking in 
upon his Delight with the impertinent Question of 

^ The chief actors left at Drury Lane were Estcourt, Pinketh- 
man, Powell, Capt. Griffin, Mrs. Tofts, Mrs. Mountfort (that is, 
the great Mrs. Mountfort's daughter), and Mrs. Cross : a miser- 
ably weak company. 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 335 

But^ Master^ where ai^e yoiir Actors? But it 

seems I had taken a wrong time for this sort of En- 
quiry ; his Head was full of Matters of more moment, 
and (as you find) I was to come another time for an 
Answer : A very hopeful Condition I found myself 
in, under the Conduct of so profound a Vertuoso and 
so considerate a Master ! But to speak of him seri- 
ously, and to account for this Disregard to his 
Actors, his Notion was that Singing and Dancing, 
or any sort of Exotick Entertainments, would make 
an ordinary Company of Actors too hard for the 
best Set who had only plain Plays to subsist on. 
Now, though I am afraid too much might be said in 
favour of this Opinion, yet I thought he laid more 
Stress upon that sort of Merit than it would bear ; 
as I therefore found myself of so little Value with 
him, I could not help setting a little more upon my- 
self, and was resolv'd to come to a short Explanation 
with him. I told him I came to serve him at a time 
when many of his best Actors had deserted him ; 
that he might now have the Refusal of me ; but I 
could not afford to carry the Compliment so far as to 
lessen my Income by it; that I therefore expected 
either my casual Pay to be advanced, or the Pay- 
ment of my former Sallary made certain for as many 
Days as we had acted the Year before. — No, he was 
not willing to alter his former Method ; but I might 
chuse whatever Parts I had a mind to act of tlicirs 
who had left him. When I found him, as I thought, 
so insensible or impregnable, I look'd gravel)- in his 



336 THE LIFE OF 

Face, and told him — He knew upon what Terms I 
was willing to serve him, and took my leave. By 
this time the Hay-Ma7'ket Company had begun acting 
to Audiences somethinof better than usual, and were 
all paid their full Sallaries, a Blessing they had not 
felt in some Years in either House before. Upon 
this Success Swiney press'd the Patentee to execute 
the Articles they had as yet only verbally agreed on, 
which were in Substance, That Swiney should take 
the Hay-Market House in his own Name, and have 
what Actors he thought necessary from Drury-Lane, 
and after all Payments punctually made, the Profits 
should be equally divided between these two Under- 
takers. But soft and fair! Rashness was a Fault 
that had never yet been imputed to the Patentee ; 
certain Payments were Methods he had not of a long, 
long time been us'd to ; that Point still wanted time 
for Consideration. But Swiney was as hasty as the 
other was slow, and was resolv'd to know what he 
had to trust to before they parted ; and to keep him 
the closer to his Bargain, he stood upon his Right of 
having Me added to that Company if I was willing 
to come into it. But this was a Point as absolutely 
refus'd on one side as insisted on on the other. In 
this Contest high Words were exchang'd on both 
sides, 'till, in the end, this their last private Meeting 
came to an open Rupture : But before it was pub- 
lickly known, Swiney, by fairly letting me into the 
whole Transaction, took effectual means to secure me 
in his Interest. When the Mystery of the Patentee's 



MR. COLLEY GIBBER. 337 

Indifference to me was unfolded, and that his slighting 
me was owing to the Security he rely'd on of Swineys 
not daring to engage me, I could have no further 
Debate with my self which side of the Question I 
should adhere to. To conclude, I agreed, in two 
Words, to act with Swiney} and from this time every 
Change that happen'd in the Theatrical Government 
was a nearer Step to that twenty Years of Prosperity 
which Actors, under the Menagement of Actors, not 
long afterwards enjoy'd. What was the immediate 
Consequence of this last Desertion from Dnay- 
Lane shall be the Subject of another Chapter. 

^ Swiney's company began to act at the Haymarket on 15th 
October, 1 706. Gibber's first appearance seems to have been on 
7th November, when he played Lord Foppington in "The Careless 
Husband." 



END OF VOL. I. 




CHISWICK PRESS : — C. WHITTINGHAM AND CO., TOOKS COURT, 
CHANCICRV LANE. 



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